Music may offer an alternative to drugs for calming down patients, researchers say.
The drug midazolam is sometimes prescribed as a sedative for NHS patients undergoing a range of procedures.
But a clinical trial in the US found that music may be just as good at calming nerves.
Their study involved patients having a type of regional anaesthetic (peripheral nerve block).
Writing online in the journal Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, a team from the University of Pennsylvania said pre-operative anxiety is common and can raise levels of stress hormones in the body, which in turn can affect recovery after surgery.
Sedatives used to treat anxiety can have side-effects that affect breathing and blood flow and need continuous monitoring, they said.
For their study, 157 adults were split into two groups, with the first receiving 1mg to 2mg of midazolam, injected three minutes before the use of a peripheral nerve block.
The second group listened to Marconi Union’s Weightless series of music via noise cancelling headphones.
Levels of anxiety were then scored using a recognised scale.
The result showed that patients in the music group had similar levels of anxiety to those on the drugs – suggesting music was just as effective at calming nerves.
However, patients in the drug group were more satisfied with their overall experience than those in the music group.
The researchers suggested this may be because patients were not allowed to choose the music they listened to.
Doctors and patients also thought it was easier to communicate without the music.
The team concluded: “Music medicine may be offered as an alternative to midazolam administration prior to peripheral regional anaesthesia.
“However, further studies are warranted to evaluate whether or not the type of music, as well as how it is delivered, offers advantages over midazolam that outweigh the increase in communication barriers.”