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Anesthesiologists Spin in OR

Playing deejay during surgery is a common duty, and can be a selling point to get on a team.

October 23, 2005|Lindsey Tanner | Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO — General anesthesia or local? Hip-hop or Sinatra? These are among the decisions facing Dr. Frank Gentile in his double-duty job as anesthesiologist and self-styled deejay of the OR.

Gentile's collection is between 50 and 100 CDs, and his iPod holds about 5,000 songs.

"I choose my music strategically. I know my surgeons' tastes," says Gentile, the anesthesiology chairman at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill.

There's Eminem and 50 Cent for one surgeon who likes rap -- the songs are "cleaned up" to avoid offending anyone. For another doctor, it's Metallica. Others prefer oldies or opera.

Gentile picks different music for different stages of surgery. Many surgeons prefer up-tempo beats for the final stage, and one doctor Gentile works with "always closes to J-Lo."

Many U.S. operating rooms have sound systems, so playing music during surgery has become commonplace. Some doctors say it relieves the tension. Studies have shown that it can also benefit patients, even reducing the need for anesthesia somewhat during surgery.

In many hospitals, the task of selecting OR music falls to the anesthesiologist -- and it's one many take seriously. Some say amassing impressive music collections is even an effective marketing tool -- a way an anesthesiologist can ensure being picked for a surgical team.

"Sometimes surgeons will say, 'I won't work with that anesthesiologist because he's a fuddy-duddy and I don't like the kind of music he plays,' " said Dr. Doug Reinhart, an anesthesiologist in Ogden, Utah.

Reinhart surveyed 301 members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and found that providing operating music was among nonmedical tasks many performed. Anesthesiologists in private practice and those younger than 50 were most likely to serve as OR deejays.

Gentile says the task falls sort of naturally to anesthesiologists. Although their medical duties continue after a patient is asleep -- including monitoring vital signs and administering intravenous fluids -- anesthesiologists are less tethered to the operating table than other OR staff. They're often able to walk around or change a CD.

Gentile thinks music makes surgeons work more efficiently. "If they're working faster and they're happy, the flow of the operating room is happier."

If things aren't going well during an operation or if the music starts becoming a distraction, Gentile says, he turns it off.

Reinhart, 51, said nurses and surgeons provided the music in the surgery center where he works, but he was the OR deejay at his former job in Dallas.

Patients' tastes must be considered when using a local anesthetic, he said. "We're not going to play rap when there's a 90-year-old lady in there -- it would scare [her] to death."

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