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Wake me up before you go go… What’s on your surgeon’s playlist?

 music in medicine

Musical Theatre

Music and medicine are deeply connected. But is operating to music a good idea? And, if so, what kind of music should theatre staff be listening to?

In the Christmas issue of The BMJ, surgeons at the University Hospital of Wales examine the intertwined history of music and healing, and suggest tunes for surgeons and theatre staff to play – and to avoid – during operations.

As early as 4000 BC, “hallelujah to the healer” was played as part payment for medicinal services, while the ancient Greeks identified Apollo as the father of both healing and music. More recently, studies have shown beneficial calming and even pain relieving effects of music for patients having surgery.

But does music strike a chord with the surgeon and the theatre staff? It is certainly commonplace, being played 62-72% of time in theatre, and most often chosen by the leading surgeon, write the authors.

Around 80% of theatre staff report that music benefits communication between team members, reducing anxiety levels and improving efficiency. Music also appears to enhance surgical performance by increasing task focus, particularly among surgeons who listen to music regularly.

They suggest tracks such as Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, Smooth Operator by Sade (“a must for all theatre mix-tapes”), Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd, and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham (“best played in recovery”).

Songs best avoided include Another One Bites the Dust by Queen, Everybody Hurts by REM, and Scar Tissue by Red Hot Chilli Peppers (“plastic surgeons should avoid this at all cost”).

Critics argue that music “consumes cognitive bandwidth, reduces vigilance, impairs communication, and proves a distraction when anaesthetic problems are encountered,” say the authors. “We, however, embrace music in the operating theatre whenever the situation allows it.”

Do you think your surgical playlist is the perfect one? Share yours in a rapid response (with a spotify link, or just a list), and see what others are listening to at

And an article on music and medicine just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our favourite musical doctor ZDoggMD! If you feel like a bit of Star Wars fun, here his latest musical venture:

Viva La Vader – A Coldplay Star Wars Parody ZDoggMD

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