For those about to operate: Rock music preferred in OR

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Surgeons prefer listening to rock music while operating more than any other genre, narrowly beating out pop and classical in a survey of surgeons’ listening habits conducted by Spotify and healthcare app Figure 1.

Of the nearly 700 surgeons and surgical residents who responded to the survey, nearly all (90 percent) listen to some sort of music while they’re in the operating room, with a similar number (89 percent) preferring playlists over albums. Here’s the breakdown by genre:

  • Rock music (49 percent)
  • Pop (48 percent)
  • Classical (43 percent)
  • Jazz (24 percent)
  • R&B (21 percent)

“People’s lives are in my hands and listening to rock puts me in a comfortable place so my full attention is on my patients,” said Alan Benvenisty, MD, a vascular and transplant surgeon at Mount Sinai Health System. “I listen to bands from my youth and the feeling of nostalgia brings me to a calm, focused place.”

The results were different for anesthesiologists, anesthesiology residents and certified nurse anesthetists. They preferred pop music (59 percent) over rock (44 percent).

Surgeons don’t have a monopoly on the music, however. Many surgeons said they take requests, including from patients. One reported that during C-sections where the patient is awake, they’ll even play “Name That Tune” if the patient doesn’t have a particular preference. The music also isn’t at a constant volume; respondents reported music is turned down during “critical points” in a procedure or during any complications.

Spotify created a playlist based of the top rock songs appearing often on surgeons’ playlists. Sadly, there’s only one doctor-referencing tune in the list. Here’s the top five:

  1. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions
  2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
  3. “Just What the Doctor Ordered” by Ted Nugent
  4. “Break On Through (To the Other Side)" by The Doors
  5. “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones