Musics Health Benefits For Ventilated Patients Revealed by Drexel Professor and Research Team

The benefits of listening to music for patients on mechanical ventilation have been revealed in a systematic review by a team of Cochrane researchers led by Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions associate professor Dr. Joke Bradt. The review found that listening to music may relax patients and potentially result in fewer complications.

Mechanical ventilation often causes major distress and anxiety in patients. The sensation of breathlessness, frequent suctioning, inability to talk, uncertainty regarding surroundings or condition, discomfort, isolation from others, and fear all contribute to high levels of anxiety. Medications administered to reduce anxiety may lead to increased hospital stays and medical costs.

“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 Bradt.

The researchers reviewed data from eight trials involving 213 patients in total. Patients, who had various conditions, including lung disease, cardiac disease and trauma injuries, all received mechanical breathing support via mouth, nose, or tracheotomy or artificial opening in the neck.

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 to 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 Bradt. “Since 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.”

Little information was available about the specific kinds of music that produced beneficial effects.
“Except for mentioning general styles, such as classical and easy listening, most of the trials made no mention of the music selections used,” said Bradt. “In future trials, recording more detailed information about the music would help clinicians make better informed decisions about music selections. 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. Likewise, music therapists need to collaborate with medical personnel to carefully monitor the patients’ physiological responses to the music.”

Bradt is a board-certified music therapist with expertise in medical music therapy. She is the lead author of four additional Cochrane reviews on music interventions with medical patients. She is a member of the Exam Committee of the Certification Board for Music Therapists and has served on several regional and national professional committees in her field. She received her Ph.D. in health studies and her master’s degree in music therapy from Temple University. She also holds a master’s degree in music pedagogy from the prestigious Lemmensinstituut in Belgium. Prior to joining the faculty of Drexel’s new Ph.D. program in Creative Arts Therapies, she was the assistant director of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple. She has worked with hospitalized children, people with developmental disabilities, psychiatric illnesses and chronic pain. Her research interests include Cochrane systematic reviews, evidence-based practice, efficacy and effectiveness of music therapy interventions with medical patients, and the impact of music therapy improvisation techniques on chronic pain management.
Housed in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, the Creative Arts Therapy program focuses on preparing students to transform arts experiences into a wide variety of helping relationships and psycho-therapeutic interventions for patients and clients of all ages.

Full citations:
Bradt J, Dileo C, Grocke D. Music interventions for mechanically ventilated patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD006902. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006902.pub2

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