Music in the operating theatre not beneficial: Study

05 August 2015

Listening to music in the operating theatre might not be as beneficial as thought, especially loud dance or drum'n'bass music during procedures, say health experts.

According to research published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, communication between surgeons and nurses could be impaired when music was playing.

To study the effects of music, surgical teams were filmed carrying out procedures.

The study revealed that requests from surgeons to nurses for instruments or supplies were often repeated, and some of the teams showed evidence of frustration or tension.

Video recorded from several cameras placed at strategic points gave researchers an insight into the verbal and non-verbal communications between clinicians as operations were carried out.

The study involved 20 operations lasting a total of 35 hours, 70 per cent of which had music playing.

Researchers found how the music was played and controlled was important too and if playback volume from digital sources was not standardised, there could be sudden increases in volume between tracks.

At times, staff  turned up a popular song, again causing a sudden increase in volume that could mask instructions and other verbal communications.

According to the researchers the decision to play music during an operation should be made by the entire team, as many medical staff were left frustrated and distracted by music, which could exceed World Health Organisation limits for noise in the workplace.

Around seven in 10 surgeons used music, though, research by Imperial College London found that nurses were five times more likely to have to ask surgeons to repeat instructions if music was playing.

''This study has identified serious patient safety issues that cannot be ignored,'' said lead author Sharon-Marie Weldon.

"Music can be helpful to staff working in operating theatres where there is often a lot of background noise, as well as other distractions - it can improve concentration.

''That said, we'd like to see a more considered approach, with much more discussion or negotiation over whether music is played, the type of music, and volume, within the operating teams."

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