From Chopin to Danzig, operating rooms can be a cacophony of melodies with up to 70 percent of surgeons listen to music while operating.
The role of music in medicine dates back centuries, but as early as 100 years ago, the famed Pennsylvania surgeon, Evan Kane, submitted a brief to the Journal of the American Medical Association on the “benefic [sic] effects of the phonograph within the operating room” for the surgical staff and the patient.
The selections appear to vary, depending on personal taste, mood and type of surgery. At times, there is a discordance in taste. Who picks depends on the dynamics of the operating room (if the patient’s awake, he or she typically picks).
The Pulse surveyed several surgeons and nurses about their musical preferences. Below is a sample playlist:
“Fix You” by Coldplay: Dr. David Bosanquet, surgical resident in South Whales. “I think it’s got to be sort of general middle of the road stuff, nothing too aggressive, nothing that’s going to be putting people on edge, really…Don’t play ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by Queen,'” he says, referencing a playful essay he wrote for the British Medical Journal.
“Ave Maria” by Luciano Pavarotti: Dr. Amitabha Mitra, Plastic Surgeon at Hahnemann Hospital. “My music would be pretty slow music,” he says, adding that it’s important the whole team agrees on the music. Sometimes the selection doesn’t matter, when it’s a routine procedure. But slow music is especially helpful and soothing during microsurgery because “if you’re agitated you get a little bit of a tremor, if your’e calmed down you don’t get a tremor and you can stitch the arteries and microscopic stuff pretty easily.”
“New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra: Christa Boninfante, vascular surgery nurse at Hahnemann Hospital. “The music keeps us going. It puts us in a good mood,” says Boninfante, especially when it comes to long operations. The selection varies, sometimes the team listens to a local rock station, or pandora radio. Certain rooms have rituals. “Some days we listen to Elvis. Somedays we listen to Rod Stewart…Wednesday is usually some sort of Jazz…we listen to Frank Sinatra all day on Friday.”
“Master of Puppets” by Metallica: Dr. Timothy Schmidt, transplant surgeon at The University of Kansas Hospital. “Doing liver transplant and cancer cases, we have to be aggressive sometimes, and decisive, so it kind of suits our personality.”
“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams: Dr. Charles Yeo ~ Chief of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals. “Does that have anything to do with operating on the pancreas? Of course not,” says Yeo, who prefers classic rock or country. “But it brings me back to an exciting carefree time. Therefore I think it takes the pressure off of what we’re doing that’s typically tension packed.”
Bleeding Out by Chasing Dragons: Dr. Alexandra Tuluca, cardiac surgeon at Einstein Health Care Network, who acknowledges it’s “sometimes an ironic song, as you can imagine.” Arctic Monkeys and Hosier are also top picks. “I rotate mainly between alternative indie rock music, pop music. There are certain days when I’m more into ballads, slower music like Adele. There are other days when I feel like I want to listen to something more upbeat. It’s a mood thing,” says Tuluca. “I tune it out in the parts where I’m more focused. If you were to ask me exactly what songs were playing or what we were listening to during some critical parts of hte procedure, I could not possibly tell you. We turn the volume down during the more intense parts.
Bach by guitarist Julian Bream: Dr. Scott Levin, Chair of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. “What i hear is perfect music,” says Levin. “So perhaps subconsciously i say the surgical detail or the part of the surgery that I’m performing needs to be commensurate with that degree of perfection and excellence that allows me to do my surgery better.”
Playlist as heard in the above story:
Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”Beatles, “Getting Better”Beach Boys, “Surfin'”Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”Ice Cube, “You Can Do It”Gypsy Kings, “Djobi Djoba”Elvis Presley, “My Baby Left Me”Rod Stewart, “Some Guys Have All The Luck”The Breeders, “Cannonball”The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”Adele, “He Won’t Go”Maroon 5, “Sugar”Beethoven, “Symphony No. 9″Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”Paul Simon, “Graceland”Miles Davis, “So What”Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York”Luciano Pavarotti, “Ave Maria”Dolly Parton, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”Queen, “Another One Bites The Dust”Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive”Coldplay, “Fix Me”Victory Military Band, “Pretty Baby”Chopin, “Grande Valse Brillante Op. 18 Valentina LIsitsa”Julian Breamk, “Chaconne (Bach)”Metallica, “Master of Puppets”Danzig, “Mother”ACDC, “Back In Black”
Nurses in the operating room at Hahnemann Hospital. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)