WVU music therapist Hannah Bush performs for a patient. In a new study, Bush, an assistant professor in the medical school, found that live music performed by a licensed music therapist lowered the heart rate of pediatric intensive care patients. Her study is unique because it focuses on live music intervention for children, rather than adults, in intensive care.
(Photo WVU / Zane Lacko)
Blowing up a rock anthem can energize you during a workout. Playing sonatas in the car can calm you down while you are stuck in traffic. But music doesn’t just improve the mood of adults. According to new research on University of West Virginia, it can have a profound effect on some of the youngest and sickest hospital patients.
âThis is the first music therapy study to examine the use of live music with mechanically ventilated pediatric patients,â said Bush. âThere is a lot of research supporting music recorded with adults on life support but not children. So we decided to look into it. “
His findings appear in the American Journal of Critical Care.
Thirty-three patients, aged less than 2 years, were included in the study. All were under sedation and mechanical ventilation.
Seventeen patients received a live musical intervention from a board-certified music therapist for 15 minutes. During the intervention, the music therapist sang lullabies, accompanied herself on the guitar and invited the caregivers of the patients to sing.
The other 16 patients heard 15-minute recordings of the same lullabies performed by the same music therapist. Likewise, the caregivers were also given the opportunity to sing.
In all cases, the researchers monitored each patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure before the procedure and at 15-minute intervals for an hour after the procedure.
They found that, on average, babies who listened to live music had an immediate and significant reduction in their heart rate. And 60 minutes after the music stopped, their heart rate was still lower than it initially was.
âThis is actually very important to us because it may indicate a relaxation effect,â said Bush. âAnd that’s important to us because it’s not just during the time that the live music was provided. The effect is long lasting.
Recorded music did not give the same results.
âNothing was statistically significant with the recorded music,â said Bush. “It wasn’t harmful, but we didn’t see any improvement.”
Researchers attribute this disparity to the adaptability of live music.
âI actually cut back on my own singing if the caregiver starts singing because he’s the preferred voice,â Bush said. âI can slow things down. I can speed things up if I see the patient start to wake up a bit. Live music allows you to make changes in the moment, whereas with recorded music it is.
She and her colleagues also found that patients who received the live music intervention tended to breathe more slowly and have lower blood pressure than their counterparts who heard recorded music. However, these changes were not statistically significant.
In the future, Bush plans to study how singing during a child’s live musical intervention affects the caregiver’s mood.
âWhen I suggest that caregivers participate, most of them will refuse first and say, ‘Oh, no. “I’m not a good singer,” she said. “But usually, even if they start by sitting on the couch, just listening, they’ll walk up to that bed space and hold the child’s hand.” They will offer a gentle massage. They can sing. There is something about the experience that attracts them.
Title: Effect of Live Music Versus Recorded Music on Children Receiving Mechanical Ventilation and Sedation
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