Playing music in the operating theatre can be disruptive and surgeons should think twice about pressing the play button, according to a small study.

Researchers filmed 20 operations at two UK hospitals to observe.

When music was played, operating staff often had to repeat themselves to be heard – when requesting a surgical instrument, for example.

The Royal College of Surgeons says there is no evidence of a widespread problem in NHS hospitals.

For the study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the investigators placed multiple cameras at strategic points around the operating room to observe the verbal and non-verbal communications between staff.

The 35 hours of footage showed it was usually the senior doctors in the team who made the decision about the background music, rather than the nurses.

Music was played in 16 of the 20 observed operations.

Blasted out

Dance music and drum and bass were often played fairly loudly, with popular tracks sometimes blasted out, which made talking difficult.

In some incidences, nurses visibly struggled to hear the surgeon’s instructions.

In one operation, the scrub nurse asked the surgeon to turn the music down because she was finding it hard to count up how many swabs had been used.

However, there are studies that suggest music canĀ help surgeons stay calm and focused.

The Royal College of Surgeons says if music is played during surgery, it “must not be distracting”.

Lead researcher Sharon-Marie Weldon, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: “Music can be helpful to staff working in operating theatres where there is often a lot of background noise, as well as other distractions – it can improve concentration.

“That said, we’d like to see a more considered approach, with much more discussion or negotiation over whether music is played, the type of music and volume within the operating teams.”