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I've got you under my skin: How listening to Sinatra sing can help you heal faster

The sounds of Sinatra are helping patients undergoing surgery to relax and even heal faster, say researchers.

Hits like 'I've got you under my skin' can reduce the fear factor for patients who stay awake during surgery but need a local anaesthetic.

Easy listening and classical music were the top choices for surgeons and patients taking part in a new study at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Doctors at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford analysed data from 96 patients split into two groups for the musical experiment.

The first group was played music during their surgery while the second were operated on in the usual operating theatre environment.

Both groups included patients undergoing plastic surgery for simple skin lesions as well as those having planned NHS reconstructive surgery to hands or limbs.

Anxiety levels were measured through the patients' respiratory rate and asking them to rate their anxiety using an established scale.

Measurements were taken when the patient was on the operating table just before the surgical procedure started and again at the end of the operation, while the patient was still on the operating table.

The research, published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, found the group played music scored around 29 per cent less on anxiety levels and had an average of 11 breaths per minute versus 13 breaths per minute in the other group.

The research is the first to examine the effect of music on patients undergoing both planned and emergency surgical operations whilst awake.

Apul Parikh, one of the surgeons involved, said background music appeared to take patients' minds off the procedure.

He said 'They welcomed the distraction, even a minor operation can cause a great deal of stress.

'We didn't want anything that would make a crazy noise, it was mostly classical, Beethoven and Vivaldi for example, and Sinatra for a mellow mood.'

Study leader Hazim Sadideen, a plastic surgical registrar, said 'Undergoing surgery can be a stressful experience for patients and finding ways of making them more comfortable should be our goal as clinicians.

'There are also good medical reasons - calmer patients may cope better with pain and recover quicker.

'This small-scale work is the first time an attempt has been made to measure the impact music has in this specific group of patients and hints at the need for bigger multi-centre research to establish whether this should become part of standard practice.'

Previous studies have found classical music may have the greatest health benefits for patients, especially the works of Bach, Mozart and Italian composers.

Most studies have investigated the effects of music when played in the waiting room or endoscopy suite, with little work done on patients in the operating theatre when they are probably most anxious.

The study noted that anxiety before an operation can have a physical effect, including promoting an inflammatory response which can prolong healing time. The report said 'Thus, from a physiological perspective, high preoperative anxiety levels in patients can result in both delayed wound healing and increased post-operative pain, potentially prolonging recovery time and the length of hospital stay.' A recent study in the medical journal Brain found a couple of hours a day spent listening to music in the early weeks after a stroke doubled compared with patients who were not exposed to music. Playing music has also been shown to help dementia victims remember their past lives more easily. Previously, Leicester doctors found Glen Miller and the Big Band sound put people with breathing problems 'in the mood' and back on their feet. Those who hummed along with Glen Miller walked 25 per cent further and suffered less breathlessness.

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