Trajectories of Terminally Ill Patients' Cardiovascular Response to Receptive Music Therapy in Palliative Care


Journal of Pain and Symptom Management




Context: Relaxation interventions are frequently used to promote symptom relief in palliative care settings, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms. Objectives: The present analysis aimed at examining the psychophysiological pathways of terminally ill patients' cardiovascular response to a live music therapy vs. prerecorded mindfulness exercise. Methods: Eighty-four patients of a palliative care unit were randomly assigned to either of the two interventions. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze trajectories of physiological change. Vagally mediated heart rate variability (VM-HRV) and blood volume pulse amplitude (BVP-A) served as indices of autonomic nervous system response. Participants' gender, age, baseline scores, self-rated pain, and assignment to treatment were entered to the models as predictors. Results: Both VM-HRV and BVP-A showed significant linear and quadratic trends over time, as well as substantial heterogeneity among individuals' trajectories. Baseline scores, pain, and treatment significantly accounted for random variation in VM-HRV intercepts. BVP-A levels were significantly higher in women than in men. Moreover, assignment to treatment significantly accounted for differences in the linear slopes of peripheral blood flow. Conclusion: Higher levels of VM-HRV in the music therapy group highlight the importance of a therapeutic relationship for the effectiveness of relaxation interventions in end-of-life care settings. Music therapy caused significantly stronger reductions of vascular sympathetic tone and, therefore, may be indicated in the treatment of pain and stress-related symptoms in palliative care. Initial self-ratings of pain moderated patients' physiological response and need to be taken into account in clinical practice and future theory building. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Gender Disparities; Heart Rate; Hospitalized Patients; Live Music Listening; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Palliative Care; Relaxation; Stress; Terminally Ill; Vital signs

Indexed Terms

mindfulness; palliative care; randomized controlled trial; multilevel analysis; cancer; pain; Blood Volume; Heart Rate; Linear Models; Neoplasms; Nonlinear Dynamics; Pain Management; Sex Factors; Terminal Care; Terminally Ill; Terminally Ill Patients

Study Type

Quasi-Experimental Study; Quantitative Methods

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Document Type