Randomized control trials have shown that playing music during surgery can improve surgeons’ performance. However 20% of the population is noise intolerant, and some theatre staff find music to be a distraction.
We hypothesized that playing music is beneficial and safe in an operating theatre.
All theatre staff in a tertiary paediatric hospital were asked to complete an online questionnaire containing 5 questions: job role; was music played routinely in theatre?; did they find music helpful and did they find music distracting? (Likert scale 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree); and had they ever witnessed clinical incidents associated music?.
Data are presented as number (%), compared by Spearman rank and Chi-square test, p<0.05 as significant.
111 staff responded: 31(28%) surgeons, 28(25%) anaesthetists and 52(47%) theatre staff.
54% reported music played routinely in theatre. 71(64%) agreed or strongly agreed that music in theatre was helpful. 21(19%) found music in theatre distracting.
A strong correlation existed between staff finding music unhelpful and self-reporting of music as distracting (R=-0.76, p<0.0001). No correlation existed between staff roles and music preference.
100(91%) had never experienced a clinical incident relating to music and 10(9%) had. 33332 cases were performed at this centre 2016-2018, therefore the risk of a clinical incident related to music is <1/15,000 per annum.
There is a marked dichotomy in staff preferences about the playing of background music in operating theatres. 19% of staff find music distracting, whereas 64% find it helpful. To obtain the benefits of music, the wishes of the 19% who are noise sensitive should be taken into account. Studies that examine the effects of music in theatre must control for the dichotomy in people’s preferences and consider noise intolerance. Overall, the clinical risk of background music is extremely small.