A new research study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is showing that plastic surgeons who listen to preferred music end up using better surgical technique when closing up incisions. This means that a surgeon is more efficient in their technique of stitching up wounds and has an improved overall technique when they are hearing music that they prefer in the background.
The study has been published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, and it goes into detail about one of the most important aspects of any surgeon, which is their ability and technique of suturing. If you have ever been in a hospital or operating room, then you have heard the rock, classical, and country music playing through the speaker system, and the surgeons are likely the ones to thank for this entertainment. Previous studies have shown that surgeons have lower stress levels when they are listening to music during procedures, but not much is known about the impacts of music on technique or performance while completing the surgical tasks. In terms of plastic surgeons, stitching ability and speed are two of the most important aspects of the job, since the goal is to make the sutures invisible as possible to the naked eye. In the study, 15 plastic surgeon residents were asked to close off incisions with layered stitches on the feet of pigs, which were obtained by a local food market. The feet of pigs are very similar to human skin, which was perfect since the study wanted to get as close to human skin as possible. The surgeon residents were not informed on the purpose of the study, since that could impact the results of the study.
The surgeons were just asked to do their best and to notify the researchers when the closures were completed. The day after the first incision closing exercise, the surgical residents were asked to do another incision repair, using the same technique as before, and then either having the music on or off depending on whether the music was on or off during the first closure. The residents were not told t hat the researchers were comparing the times or the skills of the suture until after the study had been completed. Dr. Shelby Lies, who is the author of the study, and also a chief plastic surgery resident at UTMB noted that the second repair could have simply been an improvement from the first due to repetition. To lessen the effects of the repetition, the residents were assigned randomly into two groups, one of which had the music on the first time, and the other group had no music the first time. All residents had an average repair completion 7 percent shorter when the music was playing compared to when there was no music playing. The effect of the music was even more noticeable to the surgeons when their experience grew. When the surgical residents had their preferred music on, it led to a 10 percent reduction in repair time for the senior residents, while the junior residents had an 8 percent reduction in time when the music was turned on. This showed that the longer the resident had been repairing incisions, the more positively impacted they were by the music, and the less time it took for them to complete the repairs.
In terms of why this study was really important, the researchers noted that the less time the surgeons spend in the operating room, the more money that can be saved both in terms of the hospital and the patient. There are some plastic surgery procedures out there where the incision closure is a lot more lengthy than the actual procedure itself, such as a tummy tuck. When a surgeon does a tummy tuck, making the cut and actually performing the operation is almost like nothing, but it takes quite a long time to suture the incision back up, since the skin is thicker and the incisions are a lot longer. Spending less time in the operating room is also good news for the patient, since there is a greater health risk to the patient the longer they are under anesthesia. Obviously the hope is that the patient can be out for only as long as needed, because the risk of complications increases the longer the person is under the medications used for anesthesia.
As for the study, the quality of the surgical residents work was judged by other plastic surgeons who did not know anything about the surgical residents they were analyzing or any other information about the study. The ratings of the judges also confirmed the fact there was an overall improvement in the quality of the repairs while the music was playing, and this was regardless of whether or not the resident did the incision repair with the music first or second. This study confirmed that the surgeons preferred music does improve both efficiency and the quality of the incision repairs, and this can lead to better outcomes for the patient, and also a reduction in cost for the hospital.
While obviously a surgeon needs to concentrate while doing procedures and especially when making incision repairs, but most residents learn how to concentrate during these tasks early on in their first year of residency. There is always a million things going on in an operating room at once, so the ability of the surgeon to multi-task and not get distracted is almost built into them from an early point. The best part about this study is that it shows how music is beneficial on a cognitive level, and helps improve the motor skills of the surgeons. Hand-eye coordination is improved when the music is on, so we are seeing more than just a stress reliever for the surgeons, and this is really the first study to ever show this. If you are a patient, then you have to be excited about the benefits of music, especially if you are someone who is nervous about procedures already, since the music is only going to make the experience that much less painful and that much less time-consuming. As of now, it is not known whether or not plastic surgeons will start implementing the music in the operating room all of the time or whether or not this tip will become something more surgeons start doing regularly. Most of the time, if there is a way to improve the technique of surgeons and also improve time of repairs, surgeons will quickly adapt the trick or tip, so we will see if this catches on in the medical community, and if so, whether or not studies using other medical professionals will occur later on. Who knows, this might help a lot of other doctors in a lot of other circumstances as well.