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Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2018 Feb;35(2):250-257. doi: 10.1177/1049909117696723. Epub 2017 Mar 9.

Outcomes of Music Therapy Interventions on Symptom Management in Palliative Medicine Patients.

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1 Cleveland Clinic, Arts and Medicine Institute, Lyndhurst, OH, USA.
2 Cleveland Clinic, Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH, USA.
3 Cleveland Clinic, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH, USA.



Evidence has demonstrated the positive effects of music therapy on symptom management for palliative medicine patients. Previous studies have addressed patient needs, with limited discussion involving the relationship between interventions utilized to improve symptoms. The purpose of this study was to understand the impact of music therapy sessions; identify common music therapy goals and interventions and assess their effect; and investigate the effects of gender, age, and type of cancer on symptoms in patients who experienced music therapy.


This was a retrospective study of data collected during music therapy sessions. Patients scored their symptoms (pain, anxiety, depression, shortness of breath, and mood) before and after sessions. Data collected from over 1500 patients included symptom evaluation, goals, interventions, music used, patient/family reactions, and narratives.


Among 293 patients who met all study inclusion criteria, significant improvement in pain, anxiety, depression, shortness of breath, mood, facial expression, and vocalization scores was noted. In addition, 96% of patients had positive responses to participating in music therapy. Vocal and emotional were the 2 most effective interventions in improving symptoms. All 5 patient-reported symptoms improved when the therapist focused on these symptoms as goals. Age, gender, and diagnosis had no impact on symptom improvement.


This study demonstrated the importance of music therapy for addressing symptoms and behaviors of palliative medicine patients. Statistically and clinically significant effects were noted. The most effective interventions were identified. More research needs to be conducted to better understand the benefits of music therapy for palliative medicine patients.


anxiety; mood; music therapy; pain; palliative medicine; symptoms

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