Music Therapy in Palliative Care


Deutsches Arzteblatt international




BACKGROUND: Music therapy has been used successfully for over 30 years as part of palliative care programs for severely ill patients. There is nonetheless a lack of high-quality studies that would enable an evidence-based evaluation of its psychological and physiological effects. METHODS: In a randomized controlled trial, 84 hospitalized patients in palliative care were assigned to one of two treatment arms--music therapy and control. The music therapy intervention consisted of two sessions of live music-based relaxation exercises; the patients in the control group listened to a verbal relaxation exercise. The primary endpoints were self-ratings of relaxation, well-being, and acute pain, assessed using visual analog scales. Heart rate variability and health-related quality of life were considered as secondary outcomes. The primary data analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle. RESULTS: Analyses of covariance revealed that music therapy was more effective than the control treatment at promoting relaxation (F = 13.7; p <0.001) and well-being (F = 6.41; p = 0.01). This effect was supported by a significantly greater increase in high-frequency oscillations of the heart rate (F = 8.13; p = 0.01). Music therapy did not differ from control treatment with respect to pain reduction (F = 0.4; p = 0.53), but it led to a significantly greater reduction in the fatigue score on the quality-of-life scale (F = 4.74; p = 0.03). CONCLUSION: Music therapy is an effective treatment with a low dropout rate for the promotion of relaxation and well-being in terminally ill persons undergoing palliative care.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Acute Pain; Fatigue; Heart Rate; Hospital Setting; Hospitalized Patients; Live Music Listening; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Music and Relaxation; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Pain Score or Rating; Palliative Care; Quality of Life; Relaxation; Self-Report Measures; Terminally Ill; Visual Analog Scale (VAS); Vital signs; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

Cancer Pain; Combined Modality Therapy; Germany; Pain Management; Pain Measurement; Palliative Care; Patient Satisfaction; Quality of Life

Study Type

Randomized Controlled Trial; Quantitative Methods

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