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Music helps ease sedation effects in children undergoing MRIs

October 17, 2016

Entering a magnetic resonance imaging machine can be stressful. The fear of claustrophobia and other anxieties leading up to it can affect the patient.

And for children who need an MRI scan for the evaluation and management of pediatric illnesses, many need to be sedated to improve the image quality, reduce the child’s motion and alleviate stress.

But a recent study led by Ambika Mathur, Ph.D., dean of Wayne State University’s Graduate School, and Deepak Kamat, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics in WSU’s School of Medicine, found that the impact of music interventions in children receiving parenteral (injection) sedation decreased the total number of doses of sedation medications, sedation time, levels of cortisol and cytokines, and saved money per patient. More importantly, it lowered anxiety among the children and their parents.

“What we found is the anxiety level increases with each MRI, so the amount of sedation required is higher as time goes on,” said Dr. Mathur, who also is a professor of Pediatrics in WSU’s School of Medicine. “It takes them longer to get out of the sedation. This results in longer hospital stays, which are inconvenient for everybody and add to expenses for caregivers, hospitals and insurance companies.”

The study, “Effects of Music Interventions on Sedation in Children Undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Clinical Trial,” was published in the International Journal of Child Health and Nutrition. Most of the patients in the study had tumors in the central nervous system, which means multiple MRIs were needed.

Dr. Mathur, who survived a battle with cancer, remembered her own treatments and the anxiety she felt. “If I didn’t carry my own music, it was a more painful experience,” she said. “If I had the music, it really helped.”

The study was conducted on 471 children ages 1 to 12 who were undergoing MRI and receiving parenteral sedation. Children were assigned to active music therapy with someone playing an instrument, facilitated music listening, another intervention (child life intervention or CLI), or no intervention. Facilitated music learning included Radio Disney, Wee Sing Animal Songs, classical music and lullabies.

With children younger than 2, Wee Sing Animal Songs resulted in the most significant decrease in total sedation time and reduction of associated costs by $44 per patient, Dr. Mathur said. From ages 2 to12, Radio Disney and/or having someone in the room play an instrument such as a guitar helped to lower stress levels and sedation time.

“Everybody benefits — the kids, parents and the hospitals. This is what I really liked about this study,” Dr. Mathur said. “The fact that such a simple thing can have an impact — that was powerful for me. It wasn’t just another research study.”

The next step and goal is to have a complimentary alternative medicine center in the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, she said, to further study other noninvasive measures that might be able to help.

“If it benefits children, or anyone else for that matter, it would be so wonderful,” Dr. Mathur said.

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