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Music could be good for patients on assisted ventilation

Caroline White

Thursday, 09 December 2010

Listening to music may help patients on assisted ventilation, suggests a new review from The Cochrane Library. Music relaxes patients, potentially resulting in fewer complications, it says.

Mechanical ventilation often causes major distress and anxiety in patients, due to the sensation of breathlessness, frequent suctioning, inability to talk, and general discomfort, while anti anxiety drugs may increase the length of hospital stay, say the US researchers.

“With all these factors making mechanical ventilation a highly stressful experience, it is exciting that music may provide a way to reduce anxiety in these patients without costly side effects,” said lead researcher Joke Bradt of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA.

The researchers reviewed data from eight trials involving 213 patients with various conditions, including lung and heart diseases and injuries, all of whom received mechanical breathing support via mouth, nose, or tracheotomy.

In seven trials, patients listened to pre-recorded music and in the remaining trial a trained music therapist provided live music with a tempo matched to the respiratory rate of the patient.

On average, listening to music reduced anxiety compared with standard care. It also reduced heart and breathing rates, although not blood pressure.

“These results look promising, but we need more trials to strengthen the evidence and we would certainly be interested in seeing more research on live music interventions provided by trained music therapists,” said Dr Bradt.

“However, because music listening is an easy treatment to provide, we do recommend that music be offered as a form of stress management for critically ill patients,” he added. 

Little information was available about the specific types of music that worked the best. “We recommend that medical personnel providing music to patients consult with a music therapist to understand what type of music may be best for a particular patient,” he said.

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