Music in the Operating Room: What’s on a Cosmetic Surgeon’s Playlist?

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Many people can’t imagine getting through the work day without music. Would you be surprised to learn that many surgeons feel the same way? TV dramas tend to portray operating rooms as tense, silent theatres, but in reality, silence in the operating room is the exception, not the norm. Surveys estimate that 90% of surgeons listen to music while they operate. What is even more interesting: science shows that music improves surgery performance and outcomes.

Science shows that listening to music can improve a surgeon’s performance and even help reduce pain levels in patients recovering from surgery.

Far from being a distraction, music appears to have a positive effect on the task at hand. A study published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that plastic surgery residents performed suturing more quickly and cleanly with music playing in the background than they did when working in silence. There’s no single type of music that seems to enhance performance more effectively, although surgeons appear the least stressed and most focused when they choose their own playlist—some perform well with Michael Jackson, while others prefer Mozart. As long as the surgeon, nurses and anesthesiologists don’t find it distracting, music can help the surgical team stay relaxed and focused.

Moreover, it’s not just operating room staff who can benefit from a surgical soundtrack. Studies show that listening to music can help patients feel more relaxed and even reduce pain levels during recovery.

As a music lover who regularly has the radio on in the operating room, I can attest to these benefits personally. Music not only helps me stay focused and steady, but creates a calm, positive energy for the entire surgical team. I thought it would be fun to share a sampling of what my Seattle cosmetic surgery team and I play in the operating room. Here are a few of our top picks across the genres:


Nice n’ Easy by The Gene Harris Quartet
Easy Living by Clifford Brown
Chameleon by Herbie Hancock
Wild is the Wind by Esperanza Spalding
The Sinister Minister by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

Rhythm & Blues

Sinnerman by Nina Simone
Corinna by Taj Mahal
Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor by Mississippi John Hurt
You Were a Long Time Coming by Nappy Brown
Outside In by Chris Smither

Americana & Folk

Cornbread and Butterbeans by the Carolina Chocolate Drops
Clackin’ Heels by He’s My Brother She’s My Sister
Wanderin’ by Dan Zanes
Shakin’ All Over by Eilen Jewell
Look at Miss Ohio by Gillian Welch
Talk Me Down by Willy Mason
Duet for Guitars #3 by M. Ward

International & Eclectic

Eras by Juana Molina
Lay Your Cards Out by Polica
Bonde by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder
Life On Mars by Seu Jorge
Eye Nyam Nam’A’Mensuro by Ebo Taylor
The Sound is Fading by Robbie Robertson

If you see some new-to-you songs among these titles, I encourage you to head over to your favorite music app and sample them for yourself. Let me know what you think in a comment below. If you’ve also been considering a cosmetic procedure to enhance your appearance, let me know in person during a personal consultation.

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