More on the History of Anesthesia and Sedation


Over 25 years ago, I began learning about the use of music as an adjunct to anesthesia.  I didn’t know that much about anesthesia and sedation, but I knew that I didn’t want any more than I absolutely needed.  I knew that anesthesia was powerful stuff, so when I found out that I would be having a baby (over 40 years ago!) I knew that I wanted to have natural childbirth and not a “saddleblock” or any kind of spinal anesthesia.  Not only did I just not like the idea of someone putting a needle in my back, but I knew enough women at that time, who had utilized the LaMaze Method or the Bradley Method, that I knew it was quite possible with proper preparation, childbirth classes, and a willing husband, which I had!

In 1990, when I stepped into the field of Music Medicine, one of the things that fascinated me was the concept of music as a way to enhance minimal anesthesia usage and a way to tap into the powerof rhythmic entrainment.

Timeline of Progress in Pain Management during Surgery:

CA 4000 BCE Sumerian artifacts depicting the opium poppy

CA 1600 BCE Acupuncture being practiced in China, according to pictographs on bones and turtle shells

CA 1187 BCE In Homer’s “Odessey,” the Greek goddess Circe, uses deleriant herbs to brew a tea, turning Odysseus’ men into swine.

64 AD  Dioscorides, a Greek surgeon in the Roman army of Emperor Nero, recommends mandrake boiled in wine to “cause the insensibility of those who are to be cut or cauterized.”

CA 800-1300 After herbal mixtures including opium, mandrake, henbane, and/or hemlock are steeped into a soporific or sleep-bearing sponge (“spongia somnifera”), the sponge is dampened so that anesthetic vapors or drippings can be applied to a patient’s nostrils. These sponges were likely historical cousins to the so-called Roman or Arabic sponges (used during crucifixions, surgeries, and other painful events).

1540:  German physician and botanist Valerius Cordus (1515–1544), synthesizes diethyl ether by distilling ethanol and sulphuric acid into what he called “sweet oil of vitriol.”

1779:  Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815)—In Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal, he describes using magnets and hypnosis to cure many ailments.

1805:  Pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner (1783–1841)—Isolates a new substance from opium, which he later names “morphium” after Morpheus, the god of dreams.

1842: William Clarke (1819‐1908)—In Rochester, New York, a medical student etherizes a single patient for a dental extraction.

1842:  Dr. Crawford W. Long (1815-1878) etherizes James Venable for removal of neck cysts on March 30, 1842. Dr. Long would become honored as the 1st anesthesiologist on a US Postage stamp (1940) and as the inspiration for the 1st “National Doctors Day” on March 30, 1991.

1845:  Dr. Horace Wells (1815-1848)-After bravely volunteering to inhale nitrous oxide for his own dental extraction back in December of 1844, Dr. Wells demonstrates nitrous oxide anesthesia for a tooth extraction near Massachusetts General Hospital, but the partial anesthetic is judged a “humbug.”

1846: On October 16, William T. G. Morton (1819-1868) made history by being first in the world to publicly and successfully demonstrate the use of ether anesthesia for surgery. This occurred at what came to be called “The Ether Dome,” at Massachusetts General Hospital on patient Edward Gilbert Abbott. Surgeon John Collins Warren noted, “Gentlemen, this is no humbug.” Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894)-suggests the terms “anaesthetic” and “anaesthesia” in a letter to William T. G. Morton. News of Morton’s ether demonstration was carried by the paddle steamship Acadiafrom Boston to Dr. Francis Boott and then on to Dr. James Robinson (1813-1862), who extracted a tooth on December 19, 1846, under ether anesthesia. In 1847 Robinson authored one of the first textbooks on anesthesia: A Treatise on the Inhalation of the Vapour of Ether for the Prevention of Pain in Surgical Operations.* On December 21, Scottish surgeons in Dumfries, Scotland (Dr. William Scott) and in London (Dr. Robert Liston) amputate limbs of etherized patients- the first such surgical anesthetics in the British Isles. Liston commented, “This Yankee dodge beats mesmerism hollow.” Dr. Liston describes the surgery in a letter to Dr. Francis Boott, which is published in The Lancet. The WLM owns this letter.

1847:  Prof. James Y. Simpson (1811-1870)-Scottish obstetrician begins administering chloroform to women for pain during childbirth. Chloroform quickly becomes a popular anesthetic for surgery and dental procedures as well. Chloroform was discovered independently in 1831 by the USA’s Samuel Guthrie, France’s Eugène Soubeiran, and Germany’s Justus von Liebig.

1853:  Drs. Charles Pravaz (1791-1853) and Alexander Wood (1817-1884)-These men independently invented the hollow hypodermic needle, which will be attached to an earlier invention, the syringe popularized in 1845 by Ireland’s Francis Rynd.

1884:  Dr. Karl Koller (1857-1944)-Viennese ophthalmologist and colleague of Sigmund Freud, introduces cocaine as an anesthetic for eye surgery.

1898:  Dr. August Bier (1861-1949)-Conducts the first spinal anesthetic using cocaine; 10 years later, he popularized the intravenous regional (“Bier”) block.

1902:  Dr. Mathias J. Seifert of Chicago coins the words “anesthesiology” and “anesthesiologist.” He asserted that an “ANESTHETIST” is a technician and an “ANESTHESIOLOGIST” is the scientific authority on anesthesia and anesthetics.

1923: Dr. Isabella Herb administers the first ethylene-oxygen surgical anesthetic. She demonstrated the remarkable trance-like state that low-dose ethylene could induce in human subjects.

1929:  The Anaesthetists’ Travel Club is organized by Dr. John S. Lundy, who will popularize use of the intravenous anesthetic thiopental (Pentothal) and will become the ASA President in 1946. The popularity of thiopental-as a swift-onset intravenous agent for inducing general anesthesia-will pave the way for other totally unrelated intravenous induction agents, such as ketamine, etomidate, and propofol.

1941:  Henry K. Beecher, MD- After his appointment to the USA’s first endowed chair in anesthesiology as Harvard’s Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Anaesthesia Research, Prof. Beecher will pioneer understanding of medical ethics, patient consent, clinical trials, the placebo effect, and “brain death.”

Dr. Robert Hingson develops Continuous Caudal Anesthesia, an innovation in obstetrical anesthesia that provides continuous pain relief for prolonged or difficult labor. In 1958, Dr. Hingson starts Brother’s Brother, a nonprofit charity for supplying medical, educational, and agricultural supplies worldwide. His needle-free “Peace Guns” would mass-immunize millions by jet injection and would be featured as the “Hypospray” in Star Trek and many science fiction films

1960:  Drs. Joseph Artusio, Alan van Poznak et al. begin human trials of the inhalational anesthetic methoxyflurane.

1999: In its report To Err is Human, the Institute of Medicine lauds the efforts of anesthesiologists in improving patient safety

By 1999, I was well on the road to trying to figure out how music could be used as an adjunct to anesthesia, in order to create a safer surgical experience by decreasing the amount of anesthesia, as well as anxiety and pain medication, before, during and after surgery!

The rest is history!!  For more information on this, please visit






Will Surgical Serenity be covered by insurance?


Will the Surgical Serenity headphones be covered by insurance?

C-section Serenity Headphones

Waiting to go into surgery.

This is a fair question, and one that I get asked fairly often.  The Surgical Serenity Solution has the capability to reduce anxiety before surgery, anesthesia requirements during surgery, and pain medication after surgery.  The Surgical Serenity Solution can decrease nausea and vomiting in the PACU so that patient is able to be discharged to hospital room or home sooner and begin their overall recovery.  This ingenious and revolutionary tool has the ability to create a win-win for both patient and hospitals by contributing to patient health, but also increase patient satisfaction scores for hospital and allowing them to have faster turnover and treat more patients in the same time period.

So when will health insurance start paying for this?  The insurance industry is a conservative industry and I believe that they will require more studies on this, even though we have at least a couple of hundred in the last two decades.  I believe that BC/BS of California already covers some tapes/CDs that have affirmations for healing on them and actually issues them to patients with various health challenges from chemo to surgery to depression.  I see no reason that they won’t eventually cover the Surgical Serenity Solution, too.

In the meantime, we are working tirelessly to find a headphones that is so affordable for hospitals, that they can actually GIVE them to patients when they arrive at the hospital the morning of the surgery and use them throughout the process and them take them home to keep during their recovery and afterwards!

Are YOU having surgery soon?  Do YOU want to use the absolute best music during your procedure and afterwards?  Just go to now and get some for yourself.  They hold 4G of music, so you can add whatever music you want afterwards and use them for years to come.  You’ll be so glad that you did!



Surgery Music Now Available for Download!


We are so enthusiastic and excited about our Surgical Serenity Music, that we offer JUST the download if you feel that you cannot afford our lightweight, high-quality cordless headphone!  The download alone is only $99.  The headset with music already loaded onto it, is $197.97!

We believe that the Surgical Serenity Solution is slowly revolutionizing the way the surgery is being performed.  There are so many studies now, including a study on our own music and headphone (!) that there is absolutely NO doubt that music before, during and after surgery, can make a big difference in how fast and well the patient will recover.  Who knew that something as simple as choosing the right music for the patient could make such a powerful improvement to surgical outcomes??

Actually, I knew that back in the early 1990’s when I began reading the medical and music medicine literature.  It was quite obvious that, through the process of rhythmic entrainment, the patient’s heart-rate and breathing will begin to synchronize with the pulse of the music.  This relaxes the patient and keeps them relaxed through the procedure so that less medication is needed.  As a clinical musicologist, I know JUST the music to choose for the best results.  Right now the music is classical piano, but we are close to having a NEW AGE playlist, a children’s playlist, and one for elderly patients!

Don’t miss out on this!  You can download the music in minutes or order now for overnight delivery!  Just click on the picture of the headphones!


Really?? Music DURING Surgery? Yes!!


Recently, there has been a lot in the popular press (Huffington Post, etc) about the fact that so many surgeons play music during surgery and that it actually does help them to cut and stitch faster and more accurately.  This is wonderful news!  But is the patient just lying there, anesthetized, not aware of the surgeon’s music?

Anecdotal reports abound from patients who say that, even though they were under general anesthesia, they heard conversations that they wish they had not heard.  Statements such as “oh, it’s worse than we thought,” or “this lady is not going to last very long with that tumor.”  People report that, even under general anesthesia, they heard the drill, the hammers, and the saws that replaced the knee, the hip or the shoulder joints.

Not only do patients often hear these anxiety-provoking sounds, but their bodies do respond to the music that the surgeon is playing.  Now there are many surgeons that play perfectly wondering music, but often it is upbeat and loud and with lyrics that are not positive in nature.  One local surgeon was reported to play the Queen song, “Another One Bites the Dust!”  I would be furious if I thought my surgeon was listening to that!

Now we have numerous studies that document benefits of music DURING surgery:

1.  “Music Eases the Stress of Surgery”  Damir Janigro, Neuroscientist, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH

Results: Listening to melodic music decreased the activity of individual neurons in the deep brain, says Janigro, adding that the physical responses to the calming music ranged from patients’ closing their eyes to falling asleep. Some patients even settled into a nice round of snoring. And when lead neurosurgeon Ali Rezai needed patients to perform an action, such as lifting a limb, during the procedures, he simply removed their earphones and relayed instructions. Once the music resumed, patients returned to their snoozing

Conclusion: With the right music patients can be more relaxed in the operating room. And that relaxation may mean not only that procedures involve less medication — to control blood pressure, which increases with stress — but perhaps that patients have quicker recovery times and shorter hospital stays. Janigro anticipates that following institutional approval, music will be used during certain neurosurgical procedures at the clinic as early as 2010. He hopes other hospitals will soon follow Cleveland’s lead. “This type of surgery can be a traumatizing experience, and using music can decrease anxiety,” he notes.

2. ” Listening to Music decreases the Need for Sedative Medication during Colonoscopy” Department of Gastroenterology, Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode 673 008, Kerala Published: Indian J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan-Feb;25(1):3-5

3.  “How music therapy may benefit surgery patients” SCOPE blog of Stanford University School of Medicine.

The researchers (from the University of Kentucky, Dept of Music Therapy) say that music selected by trained personnel is preferred because specific guidelines should be followed to maximize the positive effect on patients, however the patient’s musical tastes should still be considered.

The researchers suggest that several playlists be offered so the patient can choose the one that best suits their tastes.

The researchers also note that the tempo, rhythm and volume of the music should be carefully controlled to maximize the positive effect. Calm, slow, gentle music was shown to produce the most positive results and facilitate relaxation and pain reduction in patients, they said.

– See more at:

Tomorrow’s post will review the use of music during recovery!



Benefits of Music with Surgery: Revisited


As our Surgical Serenity Solution isn’t exactly well-known, I spend a lot of time explaining to people of all kinds, what the benefits of music before, during, and after surgery can be!  Luckily, you can also search within this blog as well as my Healing Music Enterprises Blog, and my Brain and Music blog, for lots of other posts I’ve written through the years about the use of music during surgery.

Most of my readers know intuitively that music has great power to calm, soothe, comfort and heal.  Having surgery is an extremely stressful event and very few people go into it except by medical necessity.  Fear and anxiety are sky-high, and for many, many reasons.  First of all, patients are afraid because of whatever is causing them to need surgery:  cancer, joint replacement, heart valves or by-passes, need for a C-section, and on and on.  Then there is the very real fear of anesthesia and what could happen if they have a bad reaction to it.  This is especially true if they have not had general anesthesia previously.

When our scientifically-chosen music is administered to the patient through pre-programmed cordless headphones, research shows a significantly decreased amount of anesthesia and pain medication is needed, during and after the procedure!  As a result, the patient recovers faster and has fewer post-op side-effects such as nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Of course depending on what the surgery or procedure is, the patient will not be dancing out of the recovery room or hospital, but if we can decrease not only the side-effects experienced, but also the length of hospital stay, then using carefully chosen music, through cordless headphones, is definitely the way to go!!


Music and Surgery: Research on Benefits Continues to Emerge


When you hear someone say that music before, during and after surgery is beneficial, you assume that its a certain type of music that has been specifically chosen for surgery, right?  After talking to people and working with patients and physicians and nurses about this for 25 years, I’ve heard it all!

It started out primarily with the surgeon deciding that he would be happier if HE had music playing in the OR, so he chose music that he felt would help him do a better job operating.  I’ve heard of surgeon’s choosing classical, rock and roll, smooth jazz, chant, and lots more.  This music usually is played through iPod speakers on a counter or shelf, or even through a boombox on the floor.

The thought was that the patient was either under general anesthesia and wouldn’t really hear it or they would be under regional anesthesia and would probably also enjoy it!  Pretty “iffy” I’d say, since taste in music varies wildly.  Then I came along in the late 90’s saying that even when patient was under general anesthesia, they could benefit from having their own slow, steady music, because of a process known as rhythmic entrainment.

The way this works is that our bodies respond to a nearby strong, steady beat by synchronizing with it, or entraining with it!  This is a well-documented phenomenon, first noticed in the 1700’s by a Dutch physicist named Daniel Huygens.  One of the things the anesthesiologist and staff do during surgery is to keep the heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure and body temperature at a resting, normal level.  This can be greatly helped along by tapping into rhythmic entrainment, utilizing music with a slow, steady beat and a soothing mood.

This is the music that we have already programmed onto your Surgical Serenity headphones to achieve the Surgical Serenity Solution!  A research study that came out just a couple of years ago reported that listening to music “during all three stages proved beneficial. Overall, patients who listened to music were less anxious, required less sedative medication, recovered more quickly and reported better satisfaction with their medical experience. But while some studies show that listening to classical music could yield the most positive results, the latest findings underscore the importance of taking into account patients’ musical tastes.” –

To that, I would add that when the patient is going under general anesthesia, probably classical music is best overall.  Our study here at the VA Hospital utilized exclusively classical music, and although most of the men were not classical music afficianados, once they had been explained why this specific music was chosen, they were happy to give it a chance…and experienced all the benefits listed above!!

The comment below was from a blog that was citing this study above, done at the University of Kentucky by music therapists.  However, it is not necessary to have a music therapist present to use our pre-programmed surgical headphones!  That’s one of the money-saving benefits to hospital and patient.

I will write lots more about this in future blog posts but do let me know your thoughts and your questions!  Thank you!

See more at:

June Pegram Says:

I had a full hysterectomy in 2005 at Stanford and my physician provided me with a cd to listen to in preparation for the surgery. The premise was to listen to the cd an follow the exercises provided along with the music. Having the music, prepared me in ways that I never would have dreamed- it actually changed my life, even to this day. There was no pre-op nervousness and before I knew it, I was in my recovery room still listening to the music. What a peaceful and relaxing way to enter something normally so stressful. My recovery was just as wonderful and I listened to the cd every night during recovery. Years later I find myself humming a few bars of the relaxation song to calm me down when I am tense. The cd has since been lost to me during several moves, but I truly wish I still had it. Music is very beneficial to the psyche and physical attributes towards preparation and healing and I will use it from now on…

– See more at:


Case Study: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair


This 70-year-old gentleman had undergone surgery many times and, although he wasn’t excessively anxious about his procedure, he was quite intrigued by the idea of using music with his surgery, especially since he is a huge fan of classical music.  Here is his story:

Jim came to my office for about 30 minutes, a week before his surgery.  We talked about his procedure and how music might positively affect the total experience.  Jim is huge classical music afficianado, so when he found out that our proprietary music is classical, he was thrilled.  When he was told that after his surgery, he could put any music he wanted on the headphones and continue to use them for probably another 5-10 years, he was excited!

After his serious surgery, Jim wanted to come back to my office to tell me his story.  You’ll hear his story in the video above, but just let me encapsulate by saying that he was told before the surgery that it would probably take 4-5 hours.  It took slightly less than 2!  He was told that he would be in ICU for probably 3-4 days.  After one night in ICU and continuing to wear his headphones, he was discharged from the hospital to his home in exactly 24 hours!

Of course Jim attributes all of this to his headphones and we are agreeing with him!  Don’t you want to try them too?

To purchase your own:




Entrainment vs. Entertainment


People often ask me, when they first see the word “entrainment” if I meant “entertainment.”  We all know what entertainment is, and because I am a performing musician, people assume that I have misspelled the word entertainment, but no, entrainment is very, very different!

Think of a time when you went to a concert of any kind and when the music started, the rhythmic nature of it made you start clapping, tapping or moving your whole body in synch with the rhythm!  That’s entrainment!  The phenomenon of entrainment was named in

In the Journal “Cortex” this was written as the abstract of an article on entrainment:

Wherever human beings live, and however they may organize their affairs, they gather

from time to time to sing and dance together, often in a ritual setting. In doing so they

synchronize their voices and bodily movements to a shared, repeating interval of time, the

musical pulse, beat or tactus.  We take this capacity to “entrain” to an evenly paced stimulus.

(isochrony) so much for granted that it may come as a surprise to learn that from

a biological point of view such behavior is exceptional. But it is not altogether unique.

 So how does this apply to surgery?  One of the reasons that music is so powerful during surgery is that the pulse of the music entrains your heartbeat and breathing, even when you’re under general anesthesia.  Many people believe that when you’re under anesthesia you can’t actually “hear” the music.  That’s where the difference between entertainment and  entrainment comes in.

The idea began to take shape in my mind that some people in comas had been observed for years, tapping a toe or foot or finger, in rhythm with music being played or sung in the room.  Some people would awaken from lengthy comas, reporting that they ha indeed heard and appreciated music that was played or sung to them while in a coma.

After researching similar phenomena during surgery, I found that hundreds of people each year awaken from general anesthesia saying that they heard not only conversations during their surgery, but also music that was being played through speakers.  They also heard, during certain surgeries, the sound of drills, hammers and saws!!  This is when I began wondering if music that would start the entrainment process, played through super-lightweight headphones, might not be a wonderful thing.

Today, our Surgical Serenity Solution consists of just that.  After researching the very best music for entrainment, I have come up with a playlist that is soothing, comforting, and starts the entrainment process.  If you are having surgery in the near future, please consider getting yourself some!



Surgery with Music: FAQ’s


Are you having surgery?  Are you scared of the pain, the anesthesia, the time off work, the side-effects of all the medications you’ll be given?  These are all common, and VALID concerns.  Surgery is serious business, but there are times that it really must be done to improve quality of life, to prolong life, or to enhance life.

Over the past 5 or 6 decades, surgery has become a much safer endeavor as hospital OR conditions have improved and methods of sterilization and decontamination have stepped into the 21st century.  Many companies have created tools to make the patient more comfortable during the entire procedure, from warming the sheets and giving the patient fuzzy foot-cover, to lightweight headphones that deliver specially-chosen music for surgery, wirelessly and cordlessly!

Here are some of the most frequently-asked questions that I get about the benefits of music during surgery:

  1. What are the benefits of music during surgery:

Patients using music (through cordless headphones) pre-surgery, during and after surgery, report less fear and anxiety medication before procedure, less anesthesia during surgery, and less pain medication after surgery.  They also report fewer side-effects from the anesthesia, such as nausea and vomiting, and a faster return to home, work and life in general!  In addition, when patient receives the music through headphones, the surgeon can have his own more upbeat music, and the patient isn’t affected by that.  Also, conversations that the doctors and nurses have, that patient doesn’t want to hear, will be obscured.  Finally, with Baby boomers having more and more joint replacement surgeries, patients don’t have to hear the drilling, sawing and hammering that goes on.

2.  What are the drawbacks of music during surgery:  absolutely none!

3.   Do the headphones block all sounds in the OR?:  No, the surgical headphones are intended to greatly decrease the OR noises, but during regional anesthesia and surgery, the patient can still hear questions that the doctor might need to ask.

4.   Will my doctors approve of this?  Most doctors do approve of the use of headphones during surgery.  The surgeon and the anesthesiologist both need to give their approval.  It is important to print out our free article entitled “How to Talk with Your Doctor about Using Music During Surgery.”

5.   How did you choose the music on the headphones?:  I have been helping patients choose their perfect music for surgery for almost 25 years.  I had been reading about the benefits of music in reducing medication and calming the patient, but through my own personal research and experience, I discovered that slow, steady, soothing instrumental music, that has the tempo of the healthy, resting heartbeat is ideal.  This is what get the entrainment process going, and even when the patient is under general anesthesia, the body’s heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure all tend to stabilize and synchronize with the slow, steady pulse of the music.

6.    Can I continue to use them after surgery?:  Yes.  The headphones include a USB cable and charger so that after your surgery or other medical procedure, you can connect the headphones to your laptop and load hundreds more pieces or songs of your choice.  With care, your headphones should last for many years!


Surgical Serenity Solutions featured in local magazine


FullSizeRender (3) Yes, I was thrilled when a local journalist wanted to write an article about Surgical Serenity Solutions.  One of the challenges that we musicians, music therapists, and clinical musicologists have is publicity.  In the past, unless one had a very healthy  marketing and advertising budget, it was just not possible to let the world know what all of the possibilities were for healing with music, how music affects the brain, and the tremendous benefits of music with surgery.  Now, much of that has changed!

With the internet and the world wide web, Surgical Serenity Solutions now has the possibility of electronic magazines (ezines), blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so much more.  All of these are basically free, but there is just a little bit of a learning curve.  Thanks to all of the new “social media” options, millions more people are now aware of the healing power of music.  And this week, out came one more great article about the Surgical Serenity Solution.

The only way that we can get our wonderful, pre-programmed headphones into every hospital is to use social media to the max!  Surgical Serenity Solutions not only has a website, but also a blog, a FB page, , a Twitter account, @music4surgery , a Instagram account, #surgicalserenitysolutions and other websites such as  I do hope you’ll connect with us in as many of these venues as possible!

There is so much to understand about how to use music with your surgery and so much medical research to report on now!  Don’t miss out on this exciting new development in the world of surgery and the world of MusicMedicine.

Would love to get your comments and questions after reading  this!  Thanks!