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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 428731, 6 pages
Research Article

The Effect of Live Spontaneous Harp Music on Patients in the Intensive Care Unit

1Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724-5153, USA
2Department of Physiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724-5051, USA
3Laboratory for the Advances in Consciousness and Health, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0068, USA
4School of Music, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0004, USA
5Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University Medical Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724-5071, USA

Received 15 July 2013; Revised 17 September 2013; Accepted 12 November 2013

Academic Editor: Kevin Chen

Copyright © 2013 Ann Marie Chiasson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study was performed to investigate the effect of live, spontaneous harp music on individual patients in an intensive care unit (ICU), either pre- or postoperatively. The purpose was to determine whether this intervention would serve as a relaxation or healing modality, as evidenced by the effect on patient’s pain, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and heart rate variability. Each consenting patient was randomly assigned to receive either a live 10-minute concert of spontaneous music played by an expert harpist or a 10-minute rest period. Spontaneous harp music significantly decreased patient perception of pain by 27% but did not significantly affect heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, or heart rate variability. Trends emerged, although being not statistically significant, that systolic blood pressure increased while heart rate variability decreased. These findings may invoke patient engagement, as opposed to relaxation, as the underlying mechanism of the decrease in the patients’ pain and of the healing benefit that arises from the relationship between healer, healing modality, and patient.