HEADLINES Published January16, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Kids Feel Less Postoperative Pain If They Listen to Music

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Listening to a song by Lorde, or anyone else, appears to help children deal with postoperative pain.
(Photo : Constanza CH, commons.wikimedia.org)

Can listening to Taylor Swift or Lorde help a kid deal with postoperative pain? Apparently so, according to a new study.

Actually, it isn't so much that those two specific artists have special pain relieving powers as it is that listening to some favorite music or even to an audiobook appears to help relieve pain.

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago enrolled young patients about to undergo surgery to one of three groups, a group that listened to 30 minutes of any music they chose, a group that listened to a short audiobook, or a control group that listened to silence. The children in the first group were allowed to choose from a playlist of music in different genres such as pop, rock, country, and classical music.

Pediatric surgery patients who listened to 30 minutes of songs of their choosing or to an audiobook had a significant reduction in pain after major surgery. The music or the book helped distract the children from their pain.

"Audio therapy is an exciting opportunity and should be considered by hospitals as an important strategy to minimize pain in children undergoing major surgery," said Dr. Santhanam Suresh, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Surgery International. Using audio therapy could reduce the amount of pain relievers a child might need postoperatively. "This is inexpensive and doesn't have any side effects. Dr. Suresh is a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at Northwestern.

Sixty patients were recruited into the study and 56 completed it. The patients listened to music or an audiobook (or silence) for 30 minutes twice within 48 hours after surgery. They identified their pain levels using a pain rating scale before and after each listening session.    

Previous studies of audio therapy and postoperative pain in children did not show whether the perception of pain was affected by the music itself or if an alternate audio therapy would be as effective.

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