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Study: Music eases anxiety, reduces medication use in ICU

A new University of Minnesota study shows that music may reduce anxiety for patients in the ICU who need mechanical assistance to breathe, and that it also may reduce the amount of medication they need during recovery.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June evaluated patients in 12 ICUs in the Twin Cities area. During an average five- to six-day stay, patients who listened to their choice of music through noise-canceling headphones as frequently as they pleased, received 37 percent less sedative medication and had anxiety levels that were 19 percent lower than their peers who did not listen to music.

“The music intervention helped in two ways,” says Craig Weinert, M.D., M.P.H., coauthor of the study and an associate professor in the Medical School’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. “It allowed a patient to choose what to listen to, which helped empower the patient in a time where he or she needed help to do almost anything. It also introduced the therapeutic effects of music, which are known in other circumstances to help reduce anxiety.

“The bottom line is that this is a low-cost, simple, and side-effect-free way to use less sedative medication and reduce anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients,” Weinert adds.

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