The study, led by O.J. Sahler, M.D., at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was done with 42 patients on the bone marrow transplant unit at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Students studying at nearby Nazareth College provided music therapy to 23 patients after their transplants, while 19 "control" patients received standard follow-up treatment. Patients ranged in age from 5 to 65 years of age; most were being treated for various types of cancer, including leukemias, lymphomas, and solid tumors.
The patients who met twice each week for music-assisted relaxation and imagery reported significantly less pain and nausea on average, they rated both their pain and nausea "severe" before sessions, but "moderate" after sessions. Their new bone marrow took hold faster, too: The average time until patients began producing their own white blood cells was 13.5 days in the group receiving music therapy, compared to 15.5 days in the control group. The length of this span of time, when patients are most vulnerable to infection, is crucial.
In some medical settings, such as mental health services, music therapy has been used widely to decrease patients' perception of pain, anxiety and depression, and boost their feelings of relaxation. It's also used in hospice to comfort terminally ill patients. But it's not commonly used with bone marrow transplant patients, who are often hospitalized for a month or more. Because their immune systems have been wiped out, visits are kept to a minimum to avoid infections, and feelings of isolation often set in. Patients can have a variety of side effects, including pain, nausea, fatigue, anemi
Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester Medical Center