A new study has found that listening to classical music on headphones may reduce anxiety and pain in men undergoing prostate biopsies.
Published in this month’s edition of the journal Urology, the research sought to determine the effect of noise-cancelling headphones with and without music on patients’ distress and pain as they underwent transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy (TRUS).
TRUS is indicated for men with an elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) or an abnormal digital rectal exam. The procedure, performed on approximately 700,000 men nationwide, is usually done by an urologist in a medical office and without general anesthesia though a topical Lidocaine jelly may be applied to minimize discomfort. The procedure is invasive and loud, with the noise known to trigger much distress and contributes to anxious feelings about the test.
PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland, is measured via a simple blood test. An elevated PSA level can occur with prostate cancer or certain benign conditions, but alone is not conclusive of a cancer diagnosis. It may, however, warrant further investigation.
Digital rectal exams are routinely performed in the physician’s office to help detect abnormal areas or irregular lumps. While discomfort may result, it is quick and generally painless. When a suspicious area is detected, TRUS is often required.
The prostate gland is a small organ involved in the male reproductive system. Aiding in the production of semen, it relies on male hormones to function effectively. Prostate cancer affects one in six men, though it is rarely seen in men younger than 40.
In the study, conducted by a team of physicians at Duke University under the leadership of Thomas Polascik, MD, 88 patients undergoing prostate biopsy were recruited and randomly divided into three groups: those without headphones, those with headphones but no music, and a third with headphones playing Bach concertos.
The patients completed questionnaires assessing pain and anxiety levels before and after the procedure. Their blood pressure was also taken before and after the biopsy to be used as indicators of stress.
While blood pressure levels remained elevated for men in the first two groups, those listening to the classical music on their headphones experienced no such spike. Furthermore, pain scores, measured by the questionnaires, increased among the three groups, but those in the music group reported the lowest levels.
The results suggested that shifting patients’ attention to music as they experience an invasive procedure may be beneficial in reducing pain and anxiety. Although headphone usage alone did not result in any improvement in anxiety and pain perceptions, using them to cancel out all noise while playing music appeared to help.
As lead author Polascik noted, utilizing music and headphones is simple, affordable and potentially valuable in various settings. He indicated that further studies are needed to explore new strategies to alleviate anxiety in men experiencing prostate biopsies. Experts continue to explore new avenues to reduce pain, discomfort, and stress associated with other medically-invasive tests and procedures as well.