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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Music 'reduces surgery stress'
Many people get stressed about surgery
Listening to music before and during surgery may help nervous patients cope with the stress of going under the knife.

Researchers have found that listening to music helps to minimise the rise in blood pressure associated with surgery.

However, they say the best results are likely to come from people being able to listen to the music of their choice, rather than being given music thought to be soothing.

We believe music has potential applications in many types of ambulatory surgery

Karen Allen
The team from the State University of New York at Buffalo tested their theory on 40 volunteers, most of whom were scheduled to have surgery for glaucoma or cataract removal.

Although they had normal blood pressure a week before surgery, they had significantly higher blood pressure on the morning of their operation.

This appeared to be a result of high levels of stress and apprehension about surgery.

One group of volunteers were given headphones and a choice of 22 types of music, including classical guitar, chamber and pop.

The rest were offered no music at all.

Five minute effect

Within five minutes of listening to their chosen music, the blood pressure levels of the music group members dropped to normal and stayed that way during and after surgery.

The no-music group, by contrast, had elevated blood pressure levels for the whole surgical experience.

Lead researcher Dr Karen Allen said: "Our results provide evidence that music can have beneficial cardiovascular and cognitive effects and can normalize high blood pressure caused by the stress of ambulatory (walk-in) surgery.

"We believe music has potential applications in many types of ambulatory surgery, among many patient age groups."

The researchers suggest that patients scheduled for surgery may become anxious because they feel they are giving up all personal control the moment they enter the hospital.

Being allowed to listen to music of their choice may reduce stress by restoring some of that personal control.

Music may also reduce surgery-related stress simply by distracting patients.

The research is published in the journal Pyschosomatic Medicine.

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