Being hooked up to a ventilator for breathing is a stress-provoking experience. The patient can’t talk or even take a breath on her own, and she is isolated from her friends and in serious medical trouble. If doctors attempt to alleviate the fear and anxiety of such patients with drugs, the medications can slow recovery and contribute to complications. Now a review of 8 clinical trials shows that music therapy can reduce anxiety and make breathing a bit easier and more regular. While there is more research to be done on the best type and tempo of music and the best ways to offer it, the researchers recommend “that music be offered as a form of stress management for critically ill patients.”
[Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Dec., 2010]

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  1. FrankM

    My 35-year-old son was injured in an auto accident 8+ years ago, is quadriplegic and needs a ventilator 24/7. He has about 700-800 lite rock/low tempo songs mostly from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s on an MP3 player, and plays it all night long, with the sound just barely audible. He says it helps him to sleep better.
    He is able to speak almost normally by using a “cuffless” trachea tube (vs. the “cuffed” version that does not allow speaking), and is able to use a laptop PC with a speech recognition program and special mouse controls. Makes a huge difference in his mental state!

  2. Carol (Fort Worth)

    As an early childhood music educator, this research doesn’t surprise me. We know the power of music to affect our moods (read: brain) and to soothe us (read: brain and body).
    It’s exciting to see this kind of knowledge about music applied in an acute care situation. If specialists (doctors and nurses and therapists) in the ICU begin to use music rather than meds to decrease anxiety, those acutely ill patients will have fewer drugs to deal with and (perhaps) a faster recovery. And boom boxes, CDs, and MP3 players are a lot cheaper than drugs.

  3. DWD

    I wonder if some communication devices such as ALS patients use, might help ventilator patients communicate more easily as well. Even if a person could only use one hand, something like an Ipad in a cradle or equivalent device with specialized applications might help the patient.
    Compared to the cost of being in a hospital and hooked to a ventilator, the cost (500-1000$) increase would not be large considering it could be amortized over many patients.

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