Randomized clinical trial examining the effect of music therapy in stress response to day surgery

Br J Surg. 2007 Aug;94(8):943-7. doi: 10.1002/bjs.5914.


Background: Music therapy could reduce stress and the stress response. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of music therapy in alleviating stress during day surgery.

Methods: Sixty patients undergoing day surgery were randomized to one of three groups, each containing 20 patients. Before and during surgery, patients in group 1 listened to new age music and those in group 2 listened to a choice of music from one of four styles. Patients in group 3 (control group) heard the normal sounds of the operating theatre. Plasma levels of cortisol and subpopulations of lymphocytes were evaluated before, during and after operation.

Results: Plasma cortisol levels decreased during operation in both groups of patients who listened to music, but increased in the control group. Postoperative cortisol levels were significantly higher in group 1 than in group 2 (mean(s.d.) 14.21(6.96) versus 8.63(2.72) ng/dl respectively; P < 0.050). Levels of natural killer lymphocytes decreased during surgery in groups 1 and 2, but increased in controls. Intraoperative levels of natural killer cells were significantly lower in group 1 than in group 3 (mean(s.d.) 212.2(89.3) versus 329.1(167.8) cells/microl; P < 0.050).

Conclusion: Perioperative music therapy changed the neurohormonal and immune stress response to day surgery, especially when the type of music was selected by the patient.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*


  • Hydrocortisone