Friday, November 11, 2011

Cutting Music .....

I have always been curious about medicine and its practice , right from the time I was a teenager.  At one point in my late 20's  I had an opportunity to observe a Cesarean section delivery. I stood some distance away,  mask and all, behind a screen, in the OT and watched.

While I gaped in wonder at the proceedings, the cuts and use of various instruments, the emergence of the baby as it was lifted out, and the stitching up of things,  I was  marveling at how confidently the doctor went about the job.  It was a bit disconcerting to realise that there was some endless chitchat happening between the surgeon and the anesthetist, and the assistant doctors. And this chitchat had nothing to do with the patient, the incision , the blood or whatever. The entire operation went off beautifully, and the surgeon and the anesthetist kept on a running discussion on some new Marathi musical play that had come, and their opinion on the actors, and the writer of the play, some various inside information someone had heard, and so on.  This was in the 70's.

Today, the sound quality of music that is played has improved tremendously.  Numerous genres of music are there,  and music has become an important part of the environment. In its conservative piped in version, it is played in banks, malls, airports, lobbies, and so on. Recently , I  had occasion to attend to someone in the ICCU of a hospital, and they even had music, for us to "wait by",  as we stayed endlessly in the waiting area , day after day.

Music as therapy for the sick, has been researched and proved beneficial. There are surgeons , who listen to favourite music in the OT,  and patients who need less anaesthesia, when they listen to music on headphones while going under.  Possibly then,  the  music crescendos, and thrust-and-parry, of say, the late Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's "tanaas",  would co-exist in the OT, in delicate contrast to the quiet, careful, studied , detailed, careful investigation into some one's innards, a cut here, a cauterisation there, a snip somewhere else, and a slapping of tools into some one's capable hands. 

 There is new research to show, that music also improves investigative capabilities of doctors.

 I have just come across this .  And I don't know whether to be amused or impressed.

As reported on Oct 31, 2011 , it says ,"Physicians who listen to Mozart while performing colonoscopy may increase their detection rates of precancerous polyps, according to the results of a new study unveiled at the American College of Gastroenterology's (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC."

Adenomas(tumorlike growths )  are precursors to getting colon cancer, so anything we can do to be able to  detect more adenomas in the colon, during a given procedure, will save lives later on.

The above research suggests, in simple terms,  that the mental ability of a surgeon looking for polyps in the colon reaches a peak when music is playing.

Whether it could be better enhanced by playing Beethoven, Handel,  Yanni, Abba, Beatles, A. R.  Rehman,  Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Shankar Mahadevan or Lady Gaga is not clear.

That there is a connection between music and medicine has been known . Apollo, the Greek god of healing, was portrayed playing a lyre.  In a survey done in UK, it revealed that 90% of the surgeons had their sound systems playing music while operating, half of those even preferred listening to high tempo rock music, and strangely plastic surgeons played the most music, and ENT surgeons the least

However, while music and surgery seems to be a win-win thing most of the time, a study done in 2008 and published in a journal called Surgical Endoscopy  revealed that novice surgeons performed less well, while music was on in the OT, because they actually thought it was a distraction.  The prospect of trying to extract a shaky mass of something from someones abdomen while listening to , say, the loud leading bars of 2001 Space Odyssey , or even a fast paced Jai Ho ! might be a trifle disturbing.   Just saying.

But the question remains.

Why Mozart ?  and why , only the colon ?  And has anyone done any experiments , playing Mozart, looking for polyps in other places , like say, the nose,  or small intestine ?  Does the outcome of investigations improve when words are put to the music ?

Research can possibly come up with so many options, specifying anatomy-music combinations. Like colon-Mozart, colon-Beethoven, appendix-tabla-percussion,  adenoids-shehnai,  stomach- dholak/drums, gullet-flute,  pancreas-harmonium and so on.

But the real fun would be when specific songs could be played for specific purposes .

Like a coronary artery Stenting  being done to the very fitting tune of Bridge over troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel.

 Like  Bariatric (stomach stapling) surgery being conducted to the plaintive sounds of Let-it-Be  by the Beatles.

Like a tumor being removed or excised,   as Killing me Softly , is sung soulfully by Roberta Flack.

Of course, the ideal song to be played during, say,  Bypass Surgeries, Heart Transplants and so on would be  My heart will go on, by Celine Dion.   To be followed shortly by My heart is beating  from the film Julie.

Deviated Septum (crooked nose) surgeries would be done to the tune of Himesh Reshammiya songs, encouraging more powerful straightening of the septum.

What might be considered the most intriguing use of music in medicine  can probably be attribute to consultant urologist Ben Challacombe, in Guys Hospital, London. He does delicate robotic kidney surgery. While extracting and removing a cancerous tumor from a kidney , there is a 30 minute window in which this must be accomplished.  Normally , they have someone calling out the time.  Which probably feels intimidating , so to speak. So what he does is that he has 6 , five minute music tracks playing in the OT , starting at the beginning of the window period.   The music goes along well with his surgery, and he knows at any given time where he is in that 30 minute window.

Of course there are older surgeon types, who even listen to opera while operating,  though I wouldn't want to be around there while he makes cuts here and there, as some soprano really decides to belt out high pitched arias.

There is a lot of music in the sidebar of this blog page. One of the most popular songs of Marathi Cinema currently, has to do with a lavni dancer doing her stuff, telling the hero, in  a song that goes "mala Jaaoode na ghari, ata wajale ki bara " (= Let me go home, it's almost 12 now....).......and this song is there in the play list.

If I am ever a patient in a musical OT , I'd love to have this play as they wheel me out of surgery to the recovery room.



  1. LOL I particularly liked the idea of Himesh Reshmaiya songs for Deviated Septum (crooked nose) surgeries :)

  2. I can only tell you that some songs are plain 'not mucic to the ear' ! And if the surgeon happens to be listening to those, with a knife in one hand...well...the thought is quite scary

  3. Let it be !!! ha ha ! Some imagination indeed.

    The Beatles would turn in the stomach, if they were around !

  4. the researchers surely do have some imagination eh !!!! :D :D as do you !!!! :D :D :D ;)

    You know TOI carries a lot of such researches regularly ... sometimes I am baffled and flabbergasted as to why would someone want to research something so weird !!!!

  5. Verrry interesting! I do not doubt the beneficial effect of music.

    I read recently that cows even give more milk if a certain type of music is plays near them. :)

  6. Music is good for any therapy and it is a fact, as you have so nicely expressed. I and hubby have our own separate collection to play when alone in our operatories and switch to patient's choice when he/she is on the chair.We have had patients who bring their own music to be played while being treated!We promptly save the collection for their future visits.In addition to their dental history we have their music choices to recorded in our minds!

  7. Good one.Wouldn't want music to be played when i am being operated though. Better safe than sorry.What if a doctor cuts open the wrong area in a musically overwhelmed moment?

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  9. I could write a post he he hee especially the voice of some singers for some sick..

    I have music on everytime driving, running and working tooo :)


  10. You made me laugh with your music choice!

    Still, I'm not at all surprised by the power of music. There are studies showing that children who study music at school get higher grades than others...