Scientists have discovered proof that music is its own kind of medicine, at least when it comes to patients on a ventilator. In a study out of the University of Pittsburgh, 22 males and six females coming off of mechanical ventilation after at least four days were given a "musical intervention," meaning they were allowed to listen to music of their choice every other day during six days of weaning trials, reports HCP Live. Patients, at least 21 with an average age of 62.5, saw no major changes in their blood oxygen levels or average blood pressure when they were given headsets. What fascinated researchers, however, were the dramatic decreases in respiratory rate, anxiety, and dyspnea, or impaired breathing, during days the patients listened to songs.
A patient who suddenly loses the support of a ventilator may feel stressed or insecure breathing on their own. "Having patients listen to music during these trials may help reduce stress and speed up extubation," the lead author explains in a press release. The patients, who'd spent an average of 39 days at a long-term acute care hospital, were monitored for 30 minutes before the music began, then for an hour as it played, as well as over 90 minutes on days music was omitted. There were also significant decreases in the patients' heart rates after the music started up, but researchers found no major differences when the heart rate data was compared to that of nonmusic days. Researchers will next "test benefits in a larger sample and earlier in the weaning process." (Here's how to get a song out of your head.)