Tuning Out: Music Makes Colonoscopies Less Painful

Considering that colonoscopies are the best way to catch colon cancer at its earliest stage, people still do whatever they can to put off this routine screening. While it is true that no one looks forward to a colonoscopy, perhaps a little music can help make the experience more pleasant.

That's the indication of a new study, presented at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy's national meeting, which shows that patients who listened to music during their routine colonoscopy required less sedation for the procedure.

"Offering music makes sense," said Dr. Benjamin Krevsky, lead author of the study and professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine. "It has no downside, it may prove beneficial and patients appear to be satisfied with the procedure."

For the study, Krevsky and colleagues invited 73 men and women to bring music from home or choose from a selection of CDs with the understanding they may be played during their colonoscopy.

Ear buds were taped to the participants' ears before each procedure and the volume was adjusted so the music was only audible to the patient. Then, after the initial dose of a sedative commonly used during a colonoscopy, it was randomly determined if the music would be played during the procedure itself. Further doses of the sedative were given if necessary.

After the procedure, each patient was asked about their discomfort and pain levels during the procedure and if they had any anxiety.

From their data, the researchers determined that those who listened to music during the colonoscopy needed approximately one less dose of the sedative mediation, while still reporting about the same levels of comfort as those who did not listen to music.

If music does indeed reduce the amount of sedation a patient needs for a colonoscopy, it could lead to reduced healthcare costs and greater satisfaction with the overall procedure.

"Over all, colonoscopies are very, very safe." Krevsky said. "And while the risks of sedatives are relatively small, in general, less medication is better."

The type of music the patients selected didn't seem to matter. Krevsky even suggests toting along your mp3 player to your next colonoscopy. Your favorite tunes may make the procedure a little easier to bear.

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