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!


Benefits of Surgery with Music: Medical Research Documents


As the word spreads about your options for using music during surgery, the studies come out, documenting the benefits, and the list of benefits grows and grows.   Here are a few of the main benefits for the patient having general anesthesia:

For the patient:  Slow, steady, and soothing instrumental music can

  • Decrease anxiety and the need for as much anxiety medication
  • Decrease the amount of propofol needed as a result of patients level of relaxation
  • Decrease the amount of pain medication needed during and after surgery
  • Decrease the amount of time in the recovery area as a result of
  • Less nausea and vomiting
  • Less dizziness and confusion
  • Faster recovery and back to work because of less anesthesia

For the surgeon:  Upbeat, steady tempo, instrumental music can

  • Improve focus
  • Maintain energy level
  • Decrease distractability

For the hospital:  Benefits of using separate music for patient and surgeon

  • Safer procedures with less side-effects
  • Patients safely discharged sooner because of less anesthesia and pain meds
  • Customer satisfaction sky-rockets
  • More patients are able to be seen during the day

My sincerest hope is that one day all hospitals will use music in their operating rooms to soothe and comfort the patient in a natural and effective way, through cordless, pre-programmed headphones, while the surgeon has his favorite upbeat music that allows him to have a laser focus and plenty of energy through speakers in the OR.  There is ample research to document all of these benefits.  Click HERE to see a presentation on Music with Surgery.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions!



Will my surgeon let me use music in the operating room?


Great question!  Many people fear that even if they want to use their own music in the Operating Room, their doctor won’t allow it because of concerns with germs, cleaniliness, or some sort of interference with their equipment.  Let me address these concerns, one by one:

Possible Concerns of the Surgeon

Could music through headphones or an iPod/MP3 play introduce germs into the surgical field?  I have been told repeatedly by surgical personnel, that everything in the OR does NOT have to be sterilized.  Only the instruments that go inside the patient music be sterilized.  The table, floor, lamps, etc. are disinfected but not sterilized.  Although the headphones that each person uses are brand-new and not touched by human hands once packaged, my recommendation that you order them several days in advance allows you to practice relaxing with them at home and get used to turning them off and on and adjusting the volume.  So that when you arrive at the hospital, they will likely be wiped down with disinfectant anyway, but can also easily fit under the cap that the patient wears over their own hair and head.

Even in 2005, there were a few surgeons who would balk at the idea of bringing an ipod or headphones in the to the OR, but today, the benefits of the right kind of music in surgery, are so well documented that it is not an issue.  Also, the fact that probably the majority of surgery now have music playing in the OR, makes it seem more natural for the patient to bring his music in.  Especially for regional anesthesia or local anesthesia, it makes sense to let the patient bring in the music that will be comforting for them.

Why It Works

Rhythmic entrainment is so powerful and so well-documented that there is no questions that slow, steady, soothing music will calm a person down by slowly and regulating their breathing.  You have a couple of choices.  You can choose your favorite slow, steady, instrumental music and load it onto your iPod, or you can purchase cordless, preprogrammed headphones to take into surgery and they will last you for 5-10 years, and can be re-loaded with whatever music you like.

UPDATE:  In 2021 you can order or download our new book “Having Surgery?  Using Music to Decrease Anxiety and Pain Perception” or you can now download our new mobile app and sample five different playlists we have created for surgery in different genres


Having Surgery?  Now available in the the Kindle Store!


Serenity Music Playlists now available in Apple App Store


Surgical Serenity Solutions helps hospitals and medical facilities that offer surgery increase patient satisfaction as well as reduce anxiety and pain perception, using carefully curated music that harnesses the power of rhythmic entrainment to stabilize heart rate and breathing.

Best wishes on your surgery and let me know if I can help you or answer any questions!



Surgery with Music: What are the options?


People preparing for surgery having been asking this question for about 30 years now.  Although the use of music in a medical/healing environment is ancient, only in the late 20th century were we actually able to measure the effects that music has on the patient.  For an intervention to be considered scientifically meaningful or valid, there must be research.  Now the studies have been done and we know, for sure, music before, during and after surgery is a great idea!

So what are your options?  Here is how I see them:

1.  Tell your surgeon that you’d like to be listening to some calming, soothing music during your process, whatever that might be, and trust him to make it happen.

2.  Spend some time, probably 3-5 hours, going through your CD’s or iPod playlists, and choose about an hour’s worth of your favorite calming, soothing music, to take into surgery on your iPod, if your surgeon will allow you to take your iPod in!

3.  Buy the “state-of-the-art” Surgical Serenity pre-programmed headphones that have 2e years of research behind the selection of the music and they way in which it is delivered.  These headphones have been used by hundreds of people in hospitals across the country, Canada, Hawaii, and Europe.  Many people have contacted us and sent powerful reports about how much the headphones helped them to be calm and feel fewer side-effects of the anesthesia and pain medication.  Also, these headphones can be used for years to come and re-loaded with other kinds of music for you to enjoy when you want to relax.  We’ve even had children use them during surgery and are hoping to have a child-sized model created and loaded with music just for children.

There is no question that music before, during and after surgery is a great idea.  Whether you choose your own music and load it on your iPod, or buy ready-to-go headphones, let yourself benefit from all the many advantages of music during your surgery or other medical procedure!


How soon will you be having surgery?


If you’ve just found out that you need surgery, then you’re probably still shaking and quaking from the news.  Perhaps you expected it, but perhaps you did not!  So many people have a natural fear of surgery, and especially a fear of being put to sleep or anesthetized.  The chances of something going wrong are less than 1%, but if you are part of this small group, your life might be at risk.  Of course, if you need surgery and don’t have it, then your life is at risk anyway.

I was always taught that knowledge is power, so with that in mind, I want to tell you about one specific option that more and more people are turning to in order to increase the chances of a positive result and at the same time, decrease many of the dangers.  This solution is so simple that many people overlook it completely, but it is so easy and safe that it is definitely worth giving a try.  That solution is music!  Not just any music though.  The ideal music for surgery, especially if you’ll be put completely to sleep is music that is very slow and rhythmic.  It is music that has the tempo of the healthy resting heartbeat and is purely instrumental, in other words, no lyrics!  Ideally, the music should be played on a soothing instrument such as piano, harp, or flute.  Probably not a brass instrument.  Needless to say, there are millions of pieces of music that would fit this description, but after over 20 years research into the best music for surgery, I have chosen a set of pieces that I think are the best and hundreds of people have now listened to this music during their procedures and agree that it is amazingly calming and helpful.  Some have told me that they will never again have surgery without this specific music playing through headphones!

Would YOU like to give it a try for your upcoming surgery?  If so, just go to  There you can buy either pre-programmed headphones or a download of our scientifically researched music.  This particular blog has literally hundreds of posts about the benefits, and FAQ’s of music with surgery!  I would love to help you personally if you have questions and can set up an online consult with you via SKYPE or telephone call.  If you live in the Louisville, KY area you can come into our offices for a face to face consult!  Best wishes for a successful procedure.


Want Music with Your Surgery?: the Time is NOW!


There has never been a better time to utilize the power of music with your surgery.  For several decades now, surgeons have been playing their favorite music in the O.R. but it was assumed that if the patient was under general anesthesia, that they did not need their own music, nor were they affected by the surgeon’s music.  Current research and awarenesses are rapidly changing that!

It turns out that not only IS the patient affected negatively if the surgeon choses raucous or too lively music (and yes, that does happen!)  A surgical nurse locally told me that one surgeon regularly plays “Queen’s” song “Another One Bites the Dust” when he operates!  I was appalled!  On the other hand, surgeons and anesthesiologists are becoming aware that even when the patient is totally unconscious from the anesthesia and unable to “hear” technically, the slow, steady, pulsing of certain classical music can entrain or synchronize the person’s heartrate and breathing so that they stay more relaxed on the operating table with less anesthesia.  Because they require less anesthesia to stay asleep, they awaken sooner and with less nausea, dizziness, “brain fog” and recover faster!

When the patient recovers faster, they are discharged from the hospital sooner, with fewer side effects, they get back to work and back to the lives sooner and the hospital can process more patients in one 24 hour period.  So what’s the downside?  We haven’t found anything yet.

Yes, you can create your own playlist of your favorite slow, steady music and download it to your own iPod to take into surgery….or you can get these really amazing lightweight, cordless headphones that have a built-in MP3 player, already loaded with “Surgical Serenity” music!  Your choice!  Click on the picture of the headphones or go to to learn more.  You can also contact me at  Best wishes on your surgery.



Can the surgeon and patient benefit from the same music?


 I would say that this is a moderately controversial subject.  Here’s why:  if the patient and surgeon are both going to benefit from music being played in the operating room, then the music will have to be delivered ambiently to the doctor and through headphones to the patient.  Why?  Because the surgeon needs to hear more lively and energizing music, while the patient needs to hear calming and soothing music that will keep them relaxed and keep their blood pressure, heartrate and breathing slow and steady.

Luckily, this is quite possible!  Less than a year ago I was invited to do a Grand Rounds presentationat the Cleveland Clinic Florida on the use of music as an adjunct to anesthesia.  Most of the studies we looked at talked about music in the OR being played through speakers on the wall or an iPod being played through speakers.  Although this usually benefits the OR staff, it does nothing for the well-being of the patient and completely disregards the concept of rhythmic entrainment.

The more recent studies look at the benefits of patients listening to their own favorite music through headphones.  Now this has been taken a step further:  wireless, cordless headphones are now available, pre-programmed with the ideal, slow, steady, soothing music that has been proven to slow down and keep steady the heartbeat and breathing.  Rhythmic entrainment is a phenomenon that has been acknowledged for over three hundred years!  It is this phenomenon that causes us to clap our hands, snap our fingers, or get up and dance spontaneously when favorite music comes on!  The reverse is also true, therefore, when a patient arrives at the hospital to have surgery, popping on some cordless headphones, pre-programmed with calm, slow, steady and soothing music, is an ideal way to begin the sedation process.  Oftentimes, less medication will be required as a direct result of this musical intervention.

If surgery is in your future, please consider your alternatives.  Feel free to contact me directly if I can help you!


Music and Surgery: Music Medicine or Music Therapy?


Many people do not understand the difference between music medicine and music therapy.  To me, it’s not a big deal, but to some people it is a huge deal.  My mentor, Dr. Arthur Harvey, explained it to me like this:  in order to conduct a music therapy session, a music therapist must be present.  It is the therapeutic relationship between the music therapist “doing” music with the patient that creates the result.  Music therapy is what worked miracles with Gaby Giffords.  Music therapy is a wonderful, fantastic modality with many situations, especially situations needing rehabilitation.

This is not true with music medicine.  The use of music during surgery is an example of music medicine.  In this situation, the music, as chosen by a clinical musicologist for its unique properties and suitability for pre-surgery, surgery, and recovery works all by itself.  When played for the patient through wireless, lightweight headphones, well-documented benefits result!  The surgery suite needs a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and several nurses and surgery techs.  They do not need one extra person!

This may not sound earth-shaking to you, but in a litigious society, and a hospital community that is terrified of lawsuits and staph infections, the surgery headphones provide a lot of comfort and benefits for both patient and doctor.   The anesthesiologist gets the patient to sleep more easily because the patient is already relaxed by music.  The patients wake up faster and with fewer complications, because they required less anesthesia.  In recovery, they require less pain medication because the soothing music and the entrainment phenomenon have kept the patient relaxed and therefore they experience less pain.

We have two clinical trials in progress right now and are working with hospitals around the country to get our headphones into their operating rooms for all patients.  If you or a friend or a family member is having surgery, please be sure that they have the information about music and surgery!


Surgery with Music Series Post #27: Can you make your own surgery playlist?


Of course you can!  If you have enough lead time for your surgery or other medical procedure, and if you understand what the best kind of music is, you absolutely can make your own playlist.

I believe that the cordless headphones are best though, because they can’t become entangled with any other hospital equipment and are not emitting a signal that could interfere with other medical equipment in the OR, ICU, Emergency Room or other area of the hospital.

So what are the advantages of ordering the Surgical Serenity Headphones?  The two biggest are conveniences are…they are ready to go and can be shipped to you overnight if necessary; they have already been programmed for you by a clinical musicologist who has been working in this area for over 20 years!

The music that I have chosen is based on my work with hundreds of surgery patients and surgical procedure of all kinds.  I am also a psychotherapist, so I understand the extreme anxiety and emotional angst that people go through when they are told that they need surgery.  This music is the absolutely most soothing and calming music that I’ve come across and it doesn’t matter so much what your usual taste in music might be.  This music seems to calm everyone that has heard it and it will work for you too.

If you want to make your own playlist, have the time to do it, and can find cordless headphones, that’s also great!  Please let me know what your questions might be!  Best wishes and good health to you always!


Surgery with Music Series Post #25: Music with Eye Surgery


In the 20 years that I have been working with surgery patients, helping them choose their perfect music to relax them and assist them through their procedure with a minimum of drugs, I have yet to find a procedure that music can’t help.

This dear lady came to me because she was in the midst of a series of eye surgeries to treat her macular degeneration and her glaucoma. She had already had two of the three surgeries and had to do it with only a local anesthesia. She had emerged from the first two with splitting migraines and a body so stiff and tense she could hardly move for the next several days.

She was feeling somewhat desperate and when she heard about the headphones she was more than ready to try anything! Listen to her story and let her tell you what a positive experience she had:

If you have an eye surgery in your future, you might want to seriously consider giving the headphones a try. The research is there, the experience is there. Music can greatly enhance and improve your surgical experience!

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