I wonder …

Confession. I listen to Lady Gaga in the operating room.

Except when I do a facelift.

Contrary to popular belief, the operating room is not a quiet, intense place where all you hear is the beeping of the anesthesia machine and an occasional grunt from the surgeon. Most ORs are filled with music – classical, country, pop, rock, heavy metal, even hard-core gangster rap.

The few studies that have analyzed the effects of music in the OR found that music generally has a positive influence on a surgeon’s performance. President Bill Clinton must have known this when he requested music by Jimmy Buffett and Lyle Lovett for his tendon repair surgery in 1997.

Does it matter what type of music your surgeon plays? Apparently.

A study published in “Surgical Endoscopy” last year found that classical music affected surgeons more positively than hard rock or heavy metal. Another study published by “Surgical Innovation” named hip-hop and reggae the music that most benefited surgeons’ performances.

It probably comes down to taste, with surgeons finding comfort and inspiration working to the music they like to hear. And music doesn’t just affect doctors.

I really would prefer to have a say in what music I’m hearing … at least until I’m conked out!



  1. I offered my surgeon a cd of my recent recital for playing in the OR. I figured if nothing else it would remind him to remind the anesthetist (who I’d already spoken with) to be extra careful.
    Afterward, when i went back to get sutures removed. He confessed that he did not play it during the surgery. But, it was not because he didn’t like it. Just that he was so engrossed by it, he wanted to not be distracted from enjoying it by working on me.
    He has come to one of my recitals since, so I don’t think he was fibbing. 🙂

  2. When I’m in the OR, I usually listen to classical music. And no, we don’t ask the patients because they are asleep. I have two partners who like C & W. I tolerate it but not my preference. I was pleasantly surprised last week when one of my junior partners sent me a text as I was driving in asking if I had any classical music we could listen to. (My thought was, “Hmm, does the sun rise in the east?”) We cranked up the New York rendering of Scheherazade. It was just long enough to listen to and finish the case.

    When the patient is awake, we will usually keep the OR quiet. Just the beeps of the machines.

  3. Great story, Jen! And hey, you’ve won yourself an audience member!

  4. So when a person is asleep they don’t hear anything, Bill? I’m just curious …

  5. Patty, perhaps that is a question for Anesthesioboist. I imagine that it all has to do with the depth of the anesthesia. The group that works in “my” hospital uses a device to monitor the level of consciousness. Rarely, some patients who have had general andsthesia say that they can recall some sounds or events.

    The importance of anesthesia is to provide analgesia (pain relief), amnesia (no memory of the event), and muscle relaxation. If all of that occurs, I doubt that, except in the deep subconsciousness, a patient will recall what music is played.

  6. I was wondering because when I was under for wisdom teeth I did hear talking toward the end of the surgery. I would hate to be listening to something that would bug me … but perhaps I wouldn’t even care?! 😎