Play a little Beyonce with Shakira. Hit the random button and ease into the melodies of Coldplay. Beastie Boys. Catch up on your Grey's Anatomy fix by playing The Fray. Michael Bublé. Linkin Park. Any of these bands make songs your teenage son or daughter is probably downloading right now into a digital music collection. But every day in America's hospitals, it is a similar story. Obstetric deliveries. MRI scans. Cardiac catheterizations. Laparoscopic cholecystectomies... all have ambient music in the background.
Last Tuesday I went to OR 7. 7:45 a.m. Normal day at Martha Jefferson. Routine case: a femoral to peroneal artery bypass to save a leg. As with every surgery, I reviewed the strategy with the operating room staff to make sure we had the correct suture, graft tunneling device, pneumatic tourniquet, valvulotome. All good. Pre-operative antibiotics given? Yep. Tunes? Damn, I forgot to charge my iPod. Several hours in the OR and I guess we'll have to listen to that scratchy Frank Sinatra's Greatest CD or Alanis Morissette babbling over and over about how angry and unhappy she is. I guess it's better than silence, but I wish I had my iPod. It was a long day.
Believe it or not, there is data behind these hospital melodies. In the case of surgeons, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, music makes them calmer, more accurate, and speedier. Many studies have shown the benefit of background music to patients going under the knife as well as the surgeon holding it. The general public was first exposed to this medical music phenomenon through Hollywood when William Hurt played a brash cardiothoracic surgeon in 1991's The Doctor. He portrayed somewhat of a cowboy rock star while playing his music in the operating room. These habits remain commonly embraced in many operating rooms today-the music, not necessarily the cowboy rock star.
Operating room listening tastes can be broad. You'd be amazed. Some docs create meticulous playlists. Miles Davis for the pancreas. Red Hot Chili Peppers for long, hard cases like back surgery. Rarely is military music from Eastern Europe heard. But baroque classical, J.S. Bach, Christian rock, David Lee Roth, Vivaldi, Sting, and W.A. Mozart are all common. It can get all mixed up. The operating room can become an incredible melting pot of sound, particularly if a physician begins singing! But some surgeons still remain old school and allow no music or singing-permitting just the rhythmic sounds of the heart and O2 monitors.