Demonstrating the power of the mind-body connection, familiar music can lower stress and reduce sedative use among intensive-care-unit patients requiring ventilators, says a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2013; doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5670).
A study of 373 ICU subjects at five hospitals in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area found that ventilator patients who listened to relaxing music of their choice were 36% less anxious and needed 38% less sedation than patients who did not have access to music. The researchers were from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Ohio State University in Columbus.
Studies show that high levels of ICU sedation are associated with declines in factual memory, the presence of delusional memory and other posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms that persist after ICU discharge—sometimes for more than a year. To lessen these consequences, medical professionals are motivated to find alternative ways of reducing patients’ fear and anxiety.
Lead study author Linda Chlan, PhD, RN, from Ohio State University, told HealthDay News, “We all have musical memories, and those types of music we have pleasant memories from, we need to maximize . . . Music provides a very complex auditory stimulus. It can occupy areas of the brain with a pleasant comforting stimulus, which can block out unpleasant hospital stimulus. People think, ‘Oh, music is just something nice to listen to,’ but it’s so much more than that.
”In an editorial in the same issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, authors from the Université Paris-Diderot in Paris wrote, “Reducing anxiety and amount of sedation in mechanically ventilated patients is of the utmost importance, particularly because the result may be a decrease in the post-ICU burden, which weighs heavily on many patients, as well as numerous complications related to sedation. The trial by Chlan et al. provides preliminary data that create new possibilities for improving the well-being of ICU patients.” More research was recommended.