As anyone who’s received anesthesia or watched a patient go through this procedure can attest, the process can be stressful.
As a result, many patients take anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines, to treat pre-anesthesia nerves because anxiety can prolong recovery and increase in postoperative pain. But the treatment can come with side effects, such as breathing issues and feelings of hostility and agitation.
What Did the Study Find?
That’s why researchers at the University of Pennsylvania investigated alternatives to pre-anesthesia meds that still minimize anxiety. Published in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, the study found that music worked just as well as intravenous medication to prevent anxiety in adults about to undergo a peripheral nerve block (often used in outpatient orthopedic surgeries).
To come to this conclusion, researchers randomly assigned 157 adults to receive three minutes prior to the peripheral nerve block either an injection of 1-2 mg of midazolam or a pair of noise-canceling headphones playing Marconi Union’s “Weightless.” The eight-minute song, created in collaboration with sound therapists and designed to calm listeners down, played for three minutes.
After comparing the difference in anxiety levels before and after each method, the researchers found music and intravenous medication were equally effective. That said, the study notes that patients who received the medication reported feeling more satisfied with their procedure overall. But researchers speculate that could be because patients weren’t allow to choose the song they listened to. Also, the noise-canceling headphones may have impeded communication, which clinicians involved in the trial suggested, as well.
Why Does the Study Matter?
“Our findings show that there are drug-free alternatives to help calm a patient before certain procedures, like nerve blocks,” the study’s lead author Veena Graff, MD, an assistant professor of Clinical Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn, said in a statement. “We’ve rolled out a new process at our ambulatory surgical center to provide patients who want to listen to music with access to disposable headphones. Ultimately, our goal is to offer music as an alternative to help patients relax during their perioperative period.”
Ultimately, the researchers believe their findings bode well for healthcare providers and patients seeking alternatives to benzodiazepines before anesthesia. The next step, they write, is to “evaluate whether or not the type of music, as well as how it is delivered, offers advantages over midazolam that outweigh the increase in communication barriers.”