Dr. Joseph Sirven: Can You Hear Me Now?

Published: Friday, June 1, 2018 - 3:59pm
Updated: Friday, June 1, 2018 - 4:02pm
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Dr. Joseph Sirven
Dr. Joseph Sirven

Even your surgery can have its own soundtrack. Our medical commentator Dr. Joseph Sirven explains.


My patient exclaimed “I’m doing great, but I can’t get the song 'Purple Rain' out of my head.”

I excitedly said, “'Purple Rain?' Oh, are you a Prince fan? I love Prince’s music.”

Silence. Then my patient says, “I hate Prince!”

I laughed.

“How did that song get stuck in your head?”

He said, “I have no clue!”

A few days later I was in an operating room as part of neurophysiology monitoring and I started humming Prince’s "Purple Rain" and then it dawned on me, that was the background music playing in the operating room. My patient had recently undergone surgery by the same surgeon and that’s probably how that song got stuck into his head.

From classical to rock music, music can be heard in operating rooms across the world. Surgeons play music as a way to relax, maintain focus and provide a calming environment. My patient’s story brings up a fascinating question. What’s the role of music in the operating room and how does it impact us?

In a recent study, plastic surgeons from the University of Texas in Galveston, were randomly asked to perform an operation on pig’s feet with and without their preferred music playing. Fascinatingly, when a surgeon listened to music, the repair time decreased by 8 percent for all plastic surgery resident. And 10 percent for more experienced surgeons. More importantly, the quality of repair as judged by the faculty was better in the group that listened to music. There are caveats to the study. If a surgical team has not worked together or a procedure is incredibly complex, music can be a distraction.

Does the musical choice impact the patient? Clearly my patient was able to recall Prince’s “Purple Rain.” So if you are undergoing surgery, you may want to ask your surgeon for musical requests in advance as the music played in the operating room may very well impact you as much as the surgical team. Clearly, my patient’s case brings new meaning to the question "Can you hear me now?"

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