Decreasing delirium through music: A randomized pilot trial

Sikandar H. Khan, Chenjia Xu, Russell Purpura, Sana Durrani Mbbs, Heidi Lindroth, Sophia Wang, Sujuan Gao, Annie Heiderscheit, Linda Chlan, Malaz Boustani, Babar A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Management of delirium in intensive care units is challenging because effective therapies are lacking. Music is a promising nonpharmacological intervention. Objectives To determine the feasibility and acceptability of personalized music (PM), slow-tempo music (STM), and attention control (AC) in patients receiving mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit, and to estimate the effect of music on delirium. Methods A randomized controlled trial was performed in an academic medical-surgical intensive care unit. After particular inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied, patients were randomized to groups listening to PM, relaxing STM, or an audiobook (AC group). Sessions lasted 1 hour and were given twice daily for up to 7 days. Patients wore noise-canceling headphones and used mp3 players to listen to their music/audiobook. Delirium and delirium severity were assessed twice daily by using the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (CAM-ICU) and the CAM-ICU-7, respectively. Results Of the 1589 patients screened, 117 (7.4%) were eligible. Of those, 52 (44.4%) were randomized, with a recruitment rate of 5 patients per month. Adherence was higher in the groups listening to music (80% in the PM and STM groups vs 30% in the AC group; P =.01), and 80% of patients surveyed rated the music as enjoyable. The median number (interquartile range) of delirium/ coma-free days by day 7 was 2 (1-6) for PM, 3 (1-6) for STM, and 2 (0-3) for AC (P =.32). Median delirium severity was 5.5 (1-7) for PM, 3.5 (0-7) for STM, and 4 (1-6.5) for AC (P =.78). Conclusions Music delivery is acceptable to patients and is feasible in intensive care units. Further research testing use of this promising intervention to reduce delirium is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e31-e38
JournalAmerican Journal of Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care


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