The Effect of Using Music Therapy With Relaxation Imagery in the Management of Patients Undergoing Bone Marrow Transplantation: A Pilot Feasibility Study

O. J. Sahler
B. C. Hunter
J. L. Liesveld


CONTEXT: Bone marrow/stem cell transplantation is becoming an increasingly common treatment for a variety of hematologic disorders. The treatment process is not benign. Both physiologic and psychological regimen-related side effects are common, painful, and even life threatening. Music therapy is the prescribed use of music to aid in the prevention or amelioration of physical, psychological, or cognitive problems. Relaxation imagery, as used in this study, consisted of simple visualization and direct imagery-based suggestions. The mechanism of action of the intervention is hypothesized to be reduction of the stress response through neuroendocrine pathways. OBJECTIVE: To determine the feasibility of providing a combined music therapy and relaxation imagery intervention to patients on a bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit and to examine the effects on the frequency and intensity of pain and nausea, the two most common side effects associated with transplantation. DESIGN: Case controlled study. SETTING: University hospital-based bone marrow transplant unit serving patients of all ages. PARTICIPANTS: Transplant recipients aged 4 years or older. INTERVENTION: 45-minute music-assisted relaxation and relaxation imagery sessions provided twice a week by a trained music therapist from date of enrollment into the study to discharge. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Pre/post music/relaxation imagery intervention measures of pain and nausea using a visual analog scale; determination of time-to-engraftment.