Music Therapy for Post Operative Cardiac Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating Guided Relaxation with Music and Music Listening on Anxiety, Pain, and Mood

Research output: PhD thesis

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This study is the first controlled research study undertaken in the early phase of rehabilitation after

cardiac surgery investigating the effect of a receptive music therapy method. Various forms of

music therapy interventions including both active and receptive methods were reported to be

significantly more effective than music treatment with music medicine. Music listening and

receptive music therapy (such as Guided Imagery and Music) have been proposed to help patients

both before heart surgery and during the recovery phase. This study therefore intended to explore

both a music therapy and a music medicine intervention. Guided Relaxation with Music was

considered potentially helpful for post operative cardiac patients in order to induce relaxation and

facilitate recovery involving listening to relaxing music as a background while systematically

guiding patients through a process of bodily relaxation.


Participants were 68 patients (following randomization the operation was cancelled for five of these

participants), age range from 40 to 80 years, who had a heart valve operation as a single procedure,

or as part of a double procedure including a concurrent coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Guided Relaxation with Music

(GRM), Music Listening (ML), or a control group of rest with No Music (NM). Participants in the

GRM and ML groups chose their preferred music style using four examples from which they could

choose: (1) easy listening, (2) classical, (3) specially composed (MusiCure) and (4) jazz. The

participants were given one session before and three after their operation, while they were still

hospitalized in the heart-lung surgical unit. Each session lasted 35 minutes. Repeated measurements

were made of participants' self-reporting of anxiety, pain and mood before and after surgery. Data

were also collected on length of hospital stay, participants' satisfaction with the hospitalisation, and

on participants' intake of analgesic medication. Participants self-reported through questionnaires on

the importance of rest/ relaxation, music and the guiding procedure. Participants in the GRM and

ML groups prioritized which elements of music and the guiding procedure had an impact on their

benefits of the rest/ relaxation.


There were quite variable results, lacking significance when comparing between groups, at different

time points. Some significant results were found when looking at change over time. During

hospitalization the GRM group reported the importance of their sessions with a higher mean score

than did the other two groups (ML and NM). Participants in both intervention groups, GRM and

ML, prioritized 'melody' and 'tempo' as important elements in choosing their preferred style of

music. Voice quality was of high priority for participants to benefit from the GRM intervention.

Attrition in the study was caused partly by difficulties participants experienced postoperatively in

supplying data before and after treatment.


The sample was relatively small reducing the statistical power. However, the results tend to support

findings from previous studies that have involved interventions with post-operative patients. Future

research should investigate whether GRM would prove beneficial for wider populations. GRM is

non-invasive, relatively economical, and may be an attractive and non-demanding procedure for

patients. In future research the potential of this intervention could be considered as a preventive

therapy to reduce the stress factors that can lead to heart disease.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAalborg
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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