Surgery with Music: FAQ’s

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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!

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Case History #8: 51 y.o.woman with hysterectomy

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One of the most interesting patients that I worked with was a 51 y.o. woman who was also a music therapist.    She loved music so much but suffered from severe performance anxiety and so she could never play for others and had gone into another helping profession.  However, her love of music was still intense and when she found that she could use the music she loved to help her through surgery, this is what she wanted to do!

She had been suffering from large fibroids, painful  and heavy menstrual periods since her teens and was now being told that she needed a complete hysterectomy so that she would not have to worry about the cervical cancer that had claimed her mother’s life.  Patient was extremely anxious about going under the knife, but believed that being able to listen to music as she went under general anesthesia and being able to wake up to the same gentle, rhythmic music would make it less terrifying for her.

On the day of the surgery, she was listening through her headphones from the moment she arrived at the hospital.  There was a bit of a glitch, she reported, when they finally took her back to be gowned and given an IV.  She said that having the soft, soothing music playing in her ears while they took her vital signs and asked a few last questions of her sister, was so comforting.

The surgery was a complete success and the patient reported that one of the best thing about having music was that it helped to orient her to where she was and what had just happened:  the surgery.  Despite rather bad nausea and vomiting in the ER, patient said that she still felt the music made it so much easier and more tolerable.  Remember, fear is necessarily about logic and even having lots of “head” information.  If you’re scared, you’re scared.  Let the music go in with you and comfort you…all the way!

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Redheads and Anesthesia: There is a difference for them!

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Anesthesia is a tricky thing.  And now that we have the internet you can literally scare yourself to death reading horror stories online about anesthesia mishaps, people who woke up during surgery or patients who had the wrong body part removed.  And now there’s something new to be concerned with.   Are you a redhead?  Are you about to have general anesthesia?  You may have heard that redheads require more anesthesia and after just a little bit of researching, you’ll find that it’s true!  Why?  Here’s what one researcher has to say:

Dr. Daniel I. Sessler, an anesthesiologist and chairman of the department of outcomes research at the Cleveland Clinic, said he began studying hair color after hearing so many colleagues speculate about redheads requiring more anesthesia.

“The reason we studied redheads in the beginning, it was essentially an urban legend in the anesthesia community saying redheads were difficult to anesthetize,” Dr. Sessler said. “This was so intriguing we went ahead and studied it. Redheads really do require more anesthesia, and by a clinically important amount.”

After publishing research on the topic, Dr. Sessler began hearing from redheads who complained about problems with dental pain and fear about going to the dentist. He said that when someone with red hair is considering a dental or other procedure requiring an anesthetic, they should talk to their doctor about the high probability that they are resistant to anesthetics.

“Because they’re resistant, many redheads have had bad experiences,” Dr. Sessler said. “If they go to the dentist or have a cut sutured, they’ll need more local anesthetic than other people.”

One of my redheaded friends was so relieved to hear this because she says now she won’t feel so bad when she tells the dentist that she can still feel what he is doing to her and yes, that she still does need more novocaine!  Hopefully, this will help many redheads to understand why they need more pain relief.

Which brings me to my next point.  If you are a redhead and need to have surgery ,are you concerned that you will require more anesthesia?  Fears about anesthesia include, being given too much anesthesia and not waking up afterwards; being given too little anesthesia and waking up before surgery is finished; being resistant to anesthesia and waking up enough to feel and hear what is happening but not being able to say anything.  Although all of these scenarios are extremely unlikely, they do happen and merit some careful thought about how to proceed.  Be sure to talk with your physician about your options.

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Fear of Surgery: is it holding you back?

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Let me start by saying:  fear of surgery is not unusual!  Nor is it wrong, or silly, or stupid.  Actually, I think that someone who had just been told they need surgery, would be foolish simply to accept that blindly.   I’ve had surgery numerous times, unfortunately, but obviously I survived!

No one wants their body to be cut on! Nobody in their right mind, but sometimes, the doctor needs to go in and repair something, remove something, or perhaps, just improve it.   In that case, you’re going to need to have surgery.

I’m a great believer in educating yourself and now that we have Google and Bing and other search engines, you can quickly get lots of quality information on most any subject imaginable.  Many people take the ostrich approach and bury their heads in the sand, thinking that if they can just ignore their physical problem it will go away…but it never does!

What if you could be reassured enough to go ahead and have your surgery done and put it behind you?  Many people neglect their surgery because they are truly afraid that they won’t wake up from anesthesia and will never see family and friends again.  Others fear the pain that will invariably result from cutting into the body.  But did you know, that when music is put into your brain, through headphones, anesthesia and pain medication can sometimes be cut in half!!  Yes, this is what research in the fields of music therapy, nursing, surgery and music medicine have shown.  Even if you don’t require 50% less anesthesia and pain medication, you will require less of each, and the less medication you require, the more like you will awaken from surgery and get back to your life.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this, go to Surgical Serenity Solutions and begin educating yourself about music with surgery!

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Some Side-effects of Anesthesia are Funny??

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Are you worried about the side-effects of anesthesia?  Obviously, general anesthesia is a powerful chemical process.  As with any kind of anesthesia or surgery, there are serious risks.  That’s why you want to do some careful research on the hospital you go to and who will do the surgery and the anesthesia.  Some are better that others.

The sad case of Joan Rivers, recently, demonstrated that even the smallest procedure must be carefully planned and executed.  Her procedure was quite routine, but something went wrong and she died after being in a coma for 3 or 4 days.  This is a worst-case scenario, but you need to do your research and understand that likely, you will have pain from the incision and nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and possibly short-term memory loss from the anesthesia.

Then there are the side-effects that are actually humorous!  There has been a story on television for the past two days about a young man who had just begun awakening from anesthesia.  (Yes, he did have red hair, and redheads are known to be more susceptible to the effects of anesthesia than non-redheads!)  It’s a charming story because as the guy is waking up, he looks over and his wife, but doesn’t recognize her.  Apparently this sort of thing has happened to him before because his wife doesn’t seem to be too devastated.  But when he turns a gets a good look at her, things get really funny and his wife couldn’t be happier at what comes out of his mouth!  Enjoy!

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Reactions to anesthesia during surgery

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Yes, occasionally people do react adversely to anesthesia during a surgical or medical procedure.  If you’ve been healthy all of your life and never needed to take anesthesia or pain medication, how would you know?

I just heard a dear lady on TV say that she almost lost her husband to an anesthesia reaction, when the surgery was over and he was in the recovery area.  She was sitting beside him and just noticed that he was getting white as a sheet.  She called the doctors and his blood pressure was dropping rapidly.  If she had not observed this, he might have died.

How could music possibly make a difference?   I’ll tell you!  In the scientific research into how music affects the body, we learn about the process of entrainment.  Entrainment is a scientifically documented phenomenon wherein the  pulse of the music synchronizes the body rhythms, (heart rate and breathing) to the pulse of the music.  When the patient is hearing slow, steady soothing music before, during and after his procedure, there is a very good chance that his heart rate, breathing and blood pressure will stabilize and the patient will require less anesthesia and pain medication to stay comfortable.

Research in music therapy, nursing, anesthesiology and other fields is documenting this all over the world.  There are a few hospitals that actually have music therapists playing live music for the patient.  If this is not an option for you, please check out the pre-programmed, Surgical Serenity Headphones and Music.  They are already in use at Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and VA hospitals.  Let me know if I can help you!

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My Journey Into Using Music During Surgery

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For years, even  decades, I heard about people who used music during their surgical procedures.  I was always fascinated, being a musician and music-lover, exactly how this worked.  No one would really give me a straight answer about this and so eventually, I decided it must be a rare and esoteric experience that once could only get in New York, L.A., or perhaps Paris.  Little did I know, for the longest time, that there really was no particular method for getting your surgeon to provide music during your surgery.  And because I had never had surgery (except some relatively minor dental surgery) I wasn’t too concerned about it.

All of that changed in late summer of 1975 when I found that I would be having a baby in April of 1976.  Although I was happy and excited about this news, my mind went immediately to labor and delivery and what the pain management options would be.  I had heard my mother’s not-so-pleasant experience in the hospitals of 1948 when I was born, and I surely did not want to repeat her experience.  She was given scopolamine for her labor which lasted something crazy like two days.  At the end, she was completely knocked out and didn’t even see me until I was several days old!

Even though I knew that they didn’t even use that drug anymore for labor and delivery, I also didn’t want anyone sticking a needle in my back and accidentally hitting a nerve that would send me through the roof.  I decided then and there that I would use natural childbirth, the Lamaze method, and supplement that with music.  In 1976 that was really not so easy to do.  First of all, there were no CD’s or iPods, but only records and record-players and the hospital was not going to let anyone drag in their record player from home!  There were cassette tapes by then, but the music I wanted I didn’t own and it wasn’t that easy to make your own at that point.

Jump to 1990:  I had just gotten my Ph.D. in musicology and landed at dream job at the University School of Medicine as Coordinator of Music and Medicine.   Again, I began hearing about the use of music during surgery an reading everything I could get my hands on!  By 1993, I was speaking quite a bit about the “Healing Power of Music” and beginning to emphasize the benefits of music during surgery using that tapes that I was helping people put together before their surgeries.

Jump to 2005:  By then, I had probably helped hundreds of people to create their own tapes and then CD’s for surgery.  Now I was beginning to think, why couldn’t someone create headphones for surgery that were already programmed with the ideal, calm, steady, soothing music, that research has documented that people need less anesthesia, pain medication, etc. and recover faster as a result of less medication, and get back to their lives, happier and healthier!

Today, in September of 2013, these headphones are selling all over the world.  We began by selling them to the patients exclusively, but now we are actively selling them to hospitals and they are beginning to purchase them by the hundreds.  If you are contemplating surgery or if you have surgery scheduled, you need to order them NOW.  We can overnight them to you anywhere in the continental US, but don’t delay!  Go to www.SurgicalHeadphones.com.  They can be used for general anesthesia procedures as well as labor and delivery, dental surgery, cosmetic procedures of any kind, and simply for calming down and relaxing.  Go to www.SurgicalHeadphones.com right now!  Thank you!

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Fear of Surgery and Anesthesia: Is it realistic?

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In the year 2013, hasn’t most of the danger of surgery and anesthesia been eradicated?  Well, I don’t want to discourage you from having needed surgery because the vast majority of procedures go as planned and improve the quality of life immeasurably for that patient.  But just how wrong can things go?

I don’t need to recount the horror stories of surgeries gone bad from all kinds of mistakes, but you’ve heard them.  I believe that things have improved over the last few years but occasionally we still hear of the wrong limb being operated on or even removed.  We still hear of sponges being sewn up in patients, all things that could be prevented.

What can’t be prevented is bad reactions to anesthesia or pain medication in people who have never had surgery or had medical treatment at all.  Here is when using music can be particularly helpful by supplementing the relaxation effect and decreasing the need for as much anesthesia or pain medication.  Why wouldn’t a person use music?  Well, there are a few that I can think of:

  • They don’t know about how powerful music can be in surgery
  • They don’t realize that they can buy pre-programmed headphones for surgery
  • And that’s about it!

If you have been told that you need any kind of surgery at all, including dental surgery, please plan to use music.  Either your own favorite music through an iPod, or the pre-programmed headphones will give you a more positive experience and outcome!  Feel better!

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You’ve just found out you need surgery? Now what?

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No one wants to have surgery.  But some people are so terrified of “going under the knife” and “having general anesthesia,” that they put off needed surgery because of this fear.  The good news is, today there are so many resources with accurate and easy-to-understand information that people can get much-needed and reassuring information about what goes on during the procedure they need.

One of the many things that people can do is to use music before, during and after the procedure.  Using your favorite soothing, comforting music before surgery can calm you down and begin to relax your body so that it takes less anesthesia to put you to sleep.  If you’re particularly sensitive to anesthesia this is really an excellent idea!  If you’re able to put different music on your iPod, the music for surgery should ideally be purely instrumental and have a steady tempo, close to the tempo of the healthy resting heartbeat.  Choose your favorite genre and practice listening to it and relaxing before your surgery.

For the recovery room, chose something that is just slightly more upbeat, but still gentle.  When you’re listening through headphones, you will not only be putting this soothing music directly into your brain through the 8th cranial nerve.  This also blocks out operating room sounds that can be quite disconcerting.  Especially if you happen to be having joint  replacement surgery, you can hear hammering, drilling and even sawing!  Having soothing music in your ear, through headphones can be a real blessing!

Don’t have the time or the knowledge to create a playlist for surgery?  You’re in luck!  I’ve already done it for you.  Just go to www.SurgicalHeadphones.com and you can purchase either the cordless, pre-programmed headphones, or you can just purchase the download for your own MP3 device or iPod.  Let me know if you have questions!

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