Music and health | Less stress, better heart rate and more mood: the (proven) benefit of music in the ICU

03/18/2023 at 10:00


Various studies confirm that musical activity adapted to each patient improves the state and well-being of patients admitted to the ICU

music is powerful. A recent study from the Hospital de la Princesa in Madrid on the changes in brain activity induced by ‘heavy metal’ in sedated patients in the ICUputs the focus back on its benefits. Also in people who are more serious. This is attested to by El Periódico de España, from the Prensa Ibérica group, Dr. Jose Carlos IgenoHead of the ICU and Emergency Service at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Córdoba. Apart from the psychological effects -reduces anxiety and the tendency to depression– It has benefits, for example, on heart rate, blood pressure, the immune system or vital signs in patients who have suffered a heart attack…Every time, he points out, it is more documented and that is how they see it, day by day, in their unit.Dr. Igeñocoordinator of the Working Group for Planning, Organization and Management of the Spanish Society of Intensive and Critical Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC), begins by detailing that music is one of the measures that are being implemented -still not widely used in hospitals, he specifies- to humanize ICUs. Afterwards, he marks the difference between playing music to hospitalized patients and the music therapy offered, live, by a professional musician and specialized in caring for such delicate patients.

Music has many benefits. Pythagoras already discovered that he was able to calm people down and cure ailments of body and soul, “says the doctor

music has many benefits. Since ancient times, Pythagoras already discovered that he was capable of calming people and curing body and soul ailments, going through Santiago Ramon y Cajal that he discovered that it was an activity he did connections in brain cellsuntil arriving at more current documents that confirm that it improves psychological and clinical well-being. Now we have more scientific evidence and we know that these benefits increase when it is done, especially through a qualified psychotherapist“, explains the intensivist. In fact, the SEMICYUC is committed “a lot” to the humanization of critical care units and there are several hospitals that “They are working intensively on this issue.”

The doctor cites the music therapist Javier Alcántara as “the greatest expert in critically ill patients in Spain”

If we talk about music therapiststhe doctor quotes Javier Alcantara, “the greatest expert in critically ill patients in Spain” who works at the Badajoz Hospital and the Torrejón Hospital in Madrid. In fact, together with the Fundación Humanizando la Sanidad, of which he is a part, has created a guide to music therapy in ICUs.

Each patient, a music

In ICUs, explains Dr. Igeño, music, either live or the one put on by the unit staffis focused on the needs of each person: whether or not they are sedated, intubated, connected to a respirator… The sessions are around 20 minutes. Before, the family is interviewed or, if the person can speak, or communicate through a device, they are asked what they like. It all depends on the needs and the musical and sound history of the patient. “In live sessions, anything can happen. Music therapists have to be great musicians, to be able to improvise,” says the doctor.

With music, the weaning time from the ventilator is accelerated because the physiological parameters of the patient improve

What the doctors check is “a number of positive effects noted: improves mood, positive attitudes to face critical illness, reduces the perception of painimproves depressive states within the ICU (to which patients are very given) or anxiety”, details the intensivist. Has effects on heart ratein blood pressure, the immune system or vital signs in patients who have suffered a heart attack, sheds.

Less painkillers

But also, a very important effect that has been seen in studies“is that the patients connected have less need for painkillers and the weather weaning from the respirator is acceleratedbecause their physiological parameters improve, some related to lung capacity, and this can also decrease the duration of mechanical ventilation and, therefore, the stay in the ICU”.

There are different studies, adds the doctor, that have verified these improvements among groups of patients with music therapy and those who did not listen to any song. “There is a recent publication that indicates that a musical intervention has arrived to reduce the economic costs associated with admission in the ICU,” says Dr. Jose Carlos Igeno. In his hospital, they have a humanization program -with nine years of experience and awarded by different organizations and in different places, he highlights- which, of course, includes music. In his case, without a music therapist.

critical patients

In the ICU of San Juan de Dios in Córdoba, some melody always sounds: “When the patient is asleep, when postural changes are made, maneuvers that can hurt, cleaning, when he is alone… Always being careful because they are very sick people,” he details. What happens, for example, if it is a sedated patient and there is no one in the family to say what they like to hear? “If for whatever he is he is sedated and we do not know his musical history, he chooses melodic or classical, that he creates comfort and, as he wakes up, or undergoes physiotherapy, he goes in crescendobecoming much more overwhelming“, reply.

And what do you think of the result? from the study of the Hospital de la Princesa about ‘heavy metal’ inducing the biggest changes in brain activity versus classical or twelve-tone music in sedated patients?. Doctor Igeño responds that he is not surprised. It tells the case of a patient who was a big fan of Alejandro Sanz from a young age. When she relaxed and was connected to the respirator, they played softer songs by the singer and, when he began to wake up or postural changes were made, more lively, more powerful songs were played.

In patients in whom sedation is light, through a monitor, they have been able to verify that, with music, they wake up a little

In patients in whom sedation is light, through a monitor, they have been able to verify that, with music, they wake up a bit. Increases the level of consciousness. That said, he cautions: “Every patient requires different methods depending on multiple factors. I see –refers to the trial of the Hospital de La Princesa– as a suitable starting point for further study that can provide further evidence“.

stress levels

In September, the Intensive Medicine Service of the Hospital del Mar (Barcelona) –in collaboration with the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute-, launched a study to analyze the state of patients diagnosed with delirium to determine if musical activity adapted to treatment generates benefits on their state, stress levels and of well-being indicators.

The Hospital del Mar ICU is a pioneer in the humanization of care for hospitalized patients, with a program that includes therapeutic outings to see the sea or the use of virtual reality to reduce patient anxiety. In this case, they want to check how the Music as therapy applied to patients admitted to the ICU It helps your evolution. The results will be soon, they indicate from the hospital, but they are not yet ready to share.

They do explain from the center that, in the time they have been with the music therapy program, 85 patients have benefited from 140 interventions. These are weekly sessions with a music therapist, lasting 20 minutes. It’s live (guitar) and the guy of music adapts to the patient. In other words, prior work is done to select the most appropriate one, they conclude from the Catalan hospital.