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The Right Music Can Help a Surgeon Stitch You Up Better, Study Finds

7 AUGUST 2015

Don't be perturbed if your doctor sticks on one of his or her favourite records before working on a wound: research from the US suggests that both surgical technique and efficiency are improved when surgeons are listening to music they like.

 

The researchers, from the University of Texas, worked with 15 plastic surgeons, and observed how music affected their performance while stitching up pigs' feet. In one part of the trial, the surgeons were left to work in silence; in the other, they were encouraged to put on the tunes of their choice. As a result, their stitching prowess and speed improved - the work was done 7 percent faster on average across the study.

To ensure that they were minimising the chance that the participants were simply speeding up as they got more familiar with the work, the team asked some of the surgeons to listen to music first, while others worked in silence first. They were not told the purpose of the study in advance.

Scientists have known for some time that music in the operating theatre can help doctors to relax, but this new study suggests that they actually get better at their job as well. The researchers also found that the improvements were slightly more noticeable in senior doctors - something to do with golden oldie tunes, perhaps?

"Our study confirmed that listening to the surgeon's preferred music improves efficiency and quality of wound closure, which may translate to healthcare cost savings and better patient outcomes," said study author and assistant professor of surgery, Andrew Zhang, in a press release.

"Spending less time in the operating room can translate into significant cost reductions, particularly when incision closure is a large portion of the procedure, such as in a tummy tuck," added Zhang's colleague, Shelby Lies. "Longer duration under general anaesthesia is also linked with increased risk of adverse events for the patient."

It's a win-win all round: the stitching gets tighter and is completed in a faster time, so surgeons spend less time working and patients spend less time on the operating table. Even though the sample group was relatively small, the findings feed into other research done on the effects of music on the brain - rather than being a safety hazard, it's actually better for you if there's music playing. Stitching skills are particularly important for plastic surgeons, who want their patients to be under the knife for as little time as possible.

Which is all well and good, just as long as they don't ask their patients to take requests, you know, during surgery:

The research has been published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.