The Effect of Music on Pain in the Adult Intensive Care Unit: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Melissa Richard-Lalonde, Céline Gélinas, Madalina Boitor, Emilie Gosselin, Nancy Feeley, Sylvie Cossette, Linda L. Chlan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Context: Multimodal analgesic approaches are recommended for intensive care unit (ICU) pain management. Although music is known to reduce pain in acute and chronic care settings, less is known about its effectiveness in the adult ICU. Objectives: Determine the effects of music interventions on pain in the adult ICU, compared with standard care or noise reduction. Methods: This review was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42018106889). Databases were searched for randomized controlled trials of music interventions in the adult ICU, with the search terms [“music*” and (“critical care” or “intensive care”)]. Pain scores (i.e., self-report rating scales or behavioral scores) were the main outcomes of this review. Data were analyzed using a DerSimonian-Laird random-effects method with standardized mean difference (SMD) of pain scores. Statistical heterogeneity was determined as I2 > 50% and explored via subgroup analyses and meta-regression. Results: Eighteen randomized controlled trials with a total of 1173 participants (60% males; mean age 60 years) were identified. Ten of these studies were included in the meta-analysis based on risk of bias assessment (n = 706). Music was efficacious in reducing pain (SMD −0.63 [95% CI −1.02, −0.24; n = 10]; I2 = 87%). Music interventions of 20–30 minutes were associated with a larger decrease in pain scores (SMD −0.66 [95% CI −0.94, −0.37; n = 5]; I2 = 30%) compared with interventions of less than 20 minutes (SMD 0.10 [95% CI −0.10, 0.29; n = 4]; I2 = 0%). On a 0–10 scale, 20–30 minutes of music resulted in an average decrease in pain scores of 1.06 points (95% CI −1.56, −0.56). Conclusion: Music interventions of 20–30 minutes are efficacious to reduce pain in adult ICU patients able to self-report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1304-1319.e6
JournalJournal of pain and symptom management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Systematic review
  • adult
  • critical care
  • intensive care
  • music
  • pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'The Effect of Music on Pain in the Adult Intensive Care Unit: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this