Music Therapy: How to Reduce Anxiety in Ventilator-Dependent Patients


ThumbnailTracheostomy and ventilator dependence provides its own unique set of challenges for how patients communicate with their caregivers. Like any major life change, tracheostomy and ventilator dependence can lead to some anxiety and frustration. Fortunately, a new study from Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota has shed some light on a new way healthcare providers can help to reduce anxiety in ventilator-dependent patients.

Published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this new study found that ventilator-dependent patients who used headphones to listen to their favorite music experienced reduced anxiety and needed less sedative medications to remain comfortable. By five days into the study, the researchers found that anxiety in these patients was reduced by more than one-third on average compared with those who did not listen to music. The amount of sedative doses in these patients was lowered by 38 percent and the intensity of sedation dropped by 36 percent on average.

The study was conducted with 373 ventilator-dependent patients at intensive care units (ICUs) in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. One group of patients participated in the music intervention, one group received normal care without music, and the last group could self-initiate the use of noise canceling headphones. A music therapist helped the first group to find their favorite music and made it available through a bedside CD player. Patients were encouraged to listen to their music if they were feeling anxious or simply needed some quiet time.

While the noise canceling headphones did show some impact on anxiety levels, the music intervention was much more powerful in reducing both anxiety and sedative use. The researchers believe that the significant reduction in anxiety levels may be due to the comforting and pleasant memories that we associate with our favorite songs.

Do you use music as a therapy tool for ventilator-dependent patients or loved ones? If so, what genre of music do you think works best to ease anxiety and reduce stress?


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