The effect of live spontaneous harp music on patients in the intensive care unit

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:428731. doi: 10.1155/2013/428731. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Abstract

This study was performed to investigate the effect of live, spontaneous harp music on individual patients in an intensive care unit (ICU), either pre- or postoperatively. The purpose was to determine whether this intervention would serve as a relaxation or healing modality, as evidenced by the effect on patient's pain, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and heart rate variability. Each consenting patient was randomly assigned to receive either a live 10-minute concert of spontaneous music played by an expert harpist or a 10-minute rest period. Spontaneous harp music significantly decreased patient perception of pain by 27% but did not significantly affect heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, or heart rate variability. Trends emerged, although being not statistically significant, that systolic blood pressure increased while heart rate variability decreased. These findings may invoke patient engagement, as opposed to relaxation, as the underlying mechanism of the decrease in the patients' pain and of the healing benefit that arises from the relationship between healer, healing modality, and patient.