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What Seattle surgeons are listening to while they operate on you

(File, Eric M. Sheahan/Mayo Clinic via AP)
LISTEN: What Swedish surgeons are listening to while they operating on you

People like to listen to music while they work, and surgeons are no different. A new joint study between Spotify and Figure 1 found that while you’re under the knife, more than 90 percent of surgeons are listening to music; usually rock.

“It does help me focus, there’s no doubt about that,” said Dr. Christine Lee, a breast surgeon at Swedish Issaquah. “It’s something that we share with the operating rooms staff or the anesthesiologist. We sometimes play some games with it, like Name That Tune. I’ll be 50 this next month, thank you very much, and often my scrub or my circulating nurse or assistants in the operating room will be in their 20s. Music is very unifying. Even if you came of age in the 80s, or you came of age this decade, a lot of music will bring people together.”

Dr. Lee is a big fan of the band Dispatch and says she often puts on the Red Hot Chili Peppers when she needs something upbeat.

“We have our circulating nurses, we tease them about the fact that now they have to be nurses and DJs at the same time.”

Swedish First Hill surgeon Dr. Ryan Martinez says the music he listens to depends on the intensity of the surgery, the time of day, or if the patient is awake.

“That might vary from classical music to hip hop to 80s. Whatever I’m in the mood for or the team is in the mood for.”

He says he has a couple of surgery playlists on his phone and he sometimes brings his own speaker into the operating room.

“I’m 43 so a lot of the nostalgic songs come from the 80s and early 90s. Public Enemy, Eminem. I have some LL Cool J, I also have Pearl Jam.”

He says he’s never played any hip hop when a patient was awake for the procedure. When Dr. Lee. operates on someone who is awake she lets the patient choose the music.

“I have some boundaries,” Dr. Lee laughs. “I have some personal, distinct dislikes of music in the operating room that will distract me. I’ll be very frank with my patients about that. Nobody wants their surgeon to be annoyed during the operation.”

She says she has no patience for modern country music.

“You know, the ‘I lost my dog, I lost my girlfriend, there’s a hurricane and my truck broke down.’ I just can’t do that stuff.”

She says some heart surgeons like to play songs about the heart, and she’s heard one song in particular many, many times.

“Universally, somebody would suggest putting on Closing Time for closing time of the operation,” said Dr. Lee. “We heard a lot of that for while. When we are literally sewing the incision closed.”

But don’t worry. Both doctors say safety always comes first and they always turn the music off for safety checks during an operation.

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