Who’s the Best DJ in the Operating Room?

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CHICAGO— General anesthesia or local? Hiphop
or Sinatra? These are among the decisions
facing Dr. Frank Gentile in his double-duty job
as anesthesiologist and self-styled DJ of the
OR.
He doesn’t use a microphone or speak in a
fake baritone. But the eclectic range of CDs he
loads onto the anesthesia cart headed for the
operating room would impress any bona fide
disc jockey. Gentile’s collection is between 50
and 100 CDs, and his iPod holds about 5,000
songs.
“I choose my music strategically. I know my
surgeons’ tastes,” says Gentile, the
anesthesiology chairman at Edward Hospital in
Naperville.
There’s Eminem and 50 Cent for one surgeon
who likes rap — the songs are “cleaned-up” to
avoid offending anyone. For another doctor it’
s Metallica. Others prefer oldies or opera.
Gentile picks different types of music for
different stages of surgery. Many surgeons
prefer up-tempo beats for the final stage and
one doctor Gentile works with “always closes
to J-Lo.”
Many U.S. operating rooms have sound
systems, so playing music during surgery has
become commonplace. Some doctors say it
relieves the tension; studies have shown it can
also benefit patients, even reducing the need
for anesthesia somewhat during surgery.
In many hospitals, the task of selecting OR
music often falls to the anesthesiologist — and
it’s one many take seriously. Some say
amassing impressive music collections is even
an effective marketing tool — a way an
anesthesiologist can ensure being picked
when a surgical team is being chosen.
“Sometimes surgeons will say, ‘I won’t work
Dr. Frank Gentile adjusts a stereo system as he holds a bunch of CDs in an operating room
at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill
Anesthesiologists face double-duty while on the job
with that anesthesiologist because he’s a
fuddy-duddy and I don’t like the kind of music
he plays,”’ said Dr. Doug Reinhart, an
anesthesiologist in Ogden, Utah.
Reinhart surveyed 301 American Society of
Anesthesiology members and found that
providing operating music was among nonmedical
tasks many performed.
Anesthesiologists in private practice and those
under 50 were most likely to serve as the
operating-room DJs.
Gentile says the DJ task falls sort of naturally
to anesthesiologists, given their role. While
their medical duties continue after a patient is
asleep — including monitoring vital signs and
administering intravenous fluids —
anesthesiologists are less tethered to the
operating table than surgeons and other OR
staff. They’re often more free to walk around
during surgery, or to change a CD.
Gentile thinks music makes surgeons work
more efficiently. “If they’re working faster and
they’re happy, the flow of the operating room
is happier.”
If things aren’t going well during an operation,
or if the music starts becoming a distraction,
Gentile says he turns it off.
Reinhart, 51, said nurses and surgeons
provide the music in the surgery center where
he works, but he was the OR DJ at his former
job at a private Dallas hospital.
“I had a little boom box on top of my
anesthesia cart and I had a selection of CDs —
a lot of country and classical and kind of
quieter soft rock,” Reinhart said.
Patients’ tastes must be considered when
surgery involves only a local anesthetic, he
said. “We’re not going to play rap when there’s
a 90-year-old lady in there — it would scare
them to death.”
Dr. Greg Irvine, an orthopedic surgeon in
Portland, Ore., says he’s worked with
anesthesiologists who load their iPods and
laptops with special music mixes catering to
specific surgeons’ tastes, then plug them into
the operating-room sound system.
Irvine says he’s usually so focused on
operating that he barely hears the music and
generally lets others decide what to play —
unless “they put on something I really can’t s
tand,” like when an anesthesiologist started
playing military music from Eastern Europe. “It
was a little intense,” Irvine said.
On the flip side, Irvine said several years ago
an anesthesiologist turned him on to
bluegrass singer Alison Krauss — he’d never
heard her “phenomenal” voice until it filled the
operating room one day.
“I went out and bought one of her early CDs,”
Irvine recalls.
Gentile’s own taste in music leans more
toward heavy metal, though he chose
something much more mellow when he had
sinus surgery a couple of years ago.
“I went to sleep listening to Coldplay,” he said.
Gentile dreamily says that now, whenever he
hears that same CD, “I get taken to a pretty
cool place.”
© 2011 The Associated Press.

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