Music in the O.R.

Music in the O.R.

While you’re lying sedated on the operating room table, your surgeon may be rocking out. Music is played in the operating theater 62 to 72 percent of the time, according to a study in medical journal The BMJ.

“Around 80 percent of theater staff report that music benefits communication between team members, reducing anxiety levels and improving efficiency. Music also seems to enhance surgical performance by increasing task focus, particularly among surgeons who listen to music regularly,” the study says.

Most often, the music is chosen by the leading surgeon, though sometimes the surgeon hands over the playlist to the staff.

“I customize my playlist to correlate with the type of surgery I am performing. The more complex the surgery is, the louder and more complex the song will be,” says Rami E. Lutfi, MD, chairman of surgery at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and director of Presence Health’s Chicago Institute of Advanced Bariatrics. “I’ll play “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent for my weight loss surgery like gastric bypass surgery and [violinist] Andre Rieu when it’s a long and boring case.”

Surgeons tend to be intuitive, with an appreciation for a wide range of music types, the study says. Here’s what’s on the playlist of local surgeons. 


Mean Street
, Van Halen

Get the Funk Out, Extreme

I Know a Little, Lynyrd Skynyrd

I Wanna Be Sedated, Ramones

Let Me Out, The Knack

Steven L. Haddad, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Illinois Bone & Joint Institute

Girlfriend in a Coma,
The Smiths

Over the Hills and Far Away, Led Zeppelin

Lisztomania, Phoenix

Animal, Neon Trees

Accidentally in Love, Counting Crows

Jonathan Citow, MD, neurosurgeon, American Center for Spine & Neurosurgery

Don’t Look Back,

Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

80s Mercedes, Maren Morris

This One’s for the Girls, Martina McBride

Express Yourself, Madonna

— Kimberly Kenton, MD, MS, chief of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery–Urogynecology and medical director of the Women’s Integrated Pelvic Health Program, Northwestern Medicine

If You Could Read My Mind,
Gordon Lightfoot

The Boxer, Simon & Garfunkel

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, Billy Joel

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

Douglas M. Sidle, MD, facial plastic surgeon, Northwestern Medicine

Originally Published in Fall 2017/Winter 2018 Issue