Music interventions for mechanically ventilated patients

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Dec 8;(12):CD006902. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006902.pub2.


Background: Mechanical ventilation often causes major distress and anxiety in patients. Music interventions have been used to reduce anxiety and distress and improve physiological functioning in medical patients; however its efficacy for mechanically ventilated patients needs to be evaluated.

Objectives: To examine the effects of music interventions with standard care versus standard care alone on anxiety and physiological responses in mechanically ventilated patients.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 1), MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED, EMBASE, PsycINFO, LILACS, Science Citation Index,, CAIRSS for Music, Proquest Digital Dissertations,, Current Controlled Trials, the National Research Register, and NIH CRISP (all to January 2010). We handsearched music therapy journals and reference lists and contacted relevant experts to identify unpublished manuscripts. There was no language restriction.

Selection criteria: We included all randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials that compared music interventions and standard care with standard care alone for mechanically ventilated patients.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently extracted the data and assessed the methodological quality. Additional information was sought from the trial researchers, when necessary. Results were presented using mean differences for outcomes measured by the same scale and standardized mean differences for outcomes measured by different scales. Post-test scores were used. In cases of significant baseline difference, we used change scores.

Main results: We included eight trials (213 participants). Music listening was the main intervention used, and seven of the studies did not include a trained music therapist. Results indicated that music listening may be beneficial for anxiety reduction in mechanically ventilated patients; however, these results need to be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size. Findings indicated that listening to music consistently reduced heart rate and respiratory rate, suggesting a relaxation response. No strong evidence was found for blood pressure reduction.Music listening did not improve oxygen saturation level.No studies could be found that examined the effects of music interventions on quality of life, patient satisfaction, post-discharge outcomes, mortality, or cost-effectiveness.

Authors' conclusions: Music listening may have a beneficial effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, and anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients. However, the quality of the evidence is not strong. Most studies examined the effects of listening to pre-recorded music. More research is needed on the effects of music offered by a trained music therapist.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Music / psychology*
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / psychology*
  • Respiratory Rate / physiology
  • Standard of Care