Introduction: Over the past few decades there has been a growing interest in the use of music, which has seen it used to achieve a diverse range of outcomes. While music as an intervention for hospital patients has subject to considerable evaluation, many of these studies are small and findings are therefore often contradictory. This systematic review was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of music as an intervention for hospital patients.
Method: A comprehensive search was undertaken involving all major health care databases. For studies to be included in the review they must have investigated the effect of music, involved adult hospital patients and used a randomized controlled trial design. These studies must also have used outcome measures such as anxiety, satisfaction, pain, mood and vital signs. Identified studies were critically appraised, and then categorized according to whether music was evaluated during normal care delivery or during invasive and unpleasant procedures. When appropriate, studies were combined in a meta-analysis.
Results: A total of 29 studies were identified that fulfilled the inclusion criteria, of which 10 were subsequently excluded following critical appraisal. Music played via headphones reduces anxiety of patients during normal care deliver, but it has no impact on the anxiety of patients undergoing procedures such as bronchoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or surgery with a spinal anaesthetic. Music produces a small reduction in respiratory rate during normal care delivery, but appears to have little effect on other vital sign parameters. It has no impact on the vital signs of patients undergoing procedures. Although the evidence is limited, music also appears improve the mood and tolerance of patients.
Conclusion: This review demonstrates the effectiveness of music for the reduction of anxiety during normal care deliver. Given the inexpensive nature of this intervention, and the lack of adverse events, it is recommended as an adjunct to normal care practices. This review also highlights the need for further research into many aspect of this intervention.