The best music to pump up or calm down orthopedic, spine surgeons in the OR

Practice Management

Six orthopedic and spine surgeons discuss what music they use in the operation room to pump them up — or calm them down — during cases.

Jeffrey Carlson, MD, President of Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, Va.: I don't listen to a lot of music in my regular life but in the OR music helps me and the staff relax during some intense times. Mostly we listen to happy Top 40 with upbeat rhythms. The pace of the music seems to provide a background for moving through the surgical day. Slower music tends to slow the whole day down and slows the pace of surgery. Of course being in Virginia, "Happy" by Pharrel is a favorite, but Taylor Swift, Katie Perry and I-G-G-Y play throughout the day. "Closing" music tends to be a bit more lively as we push for the extra energy to finish a surgery or close out the day.


Brian Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I have a carefully curated playlist that I have been building for almost 10 years. Music, to me, is critical. It keeps people moving, and establishes a flow to room, that keeps people engaged. I appreciate other people’s lists and do accommodate other musical tastes. My playlists includes artists like Kings of Leon, A Tribe Called Quest, The Black Keys, The Rolling Stones, Deadmau5, Morgan Page, The Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Billie Holliday, James Brown, and Frank Sinatra (a nod to my dearly departed Grandpa). They are all songs that move me, inspire, or make me smile. That energy is really felt in the OR and to me, makes for a good operation.


Brett Levine, MD, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, Chicago: I typically use the same music to keep me pumped up as well as calm in the OR. We like to call it closing music (as we typically turn things up as we close the wound). My favorite bands are rock bands and can be loud (much to the chagrin of anesthesia). I typically use a Pandora mix to give a variety of music to include bands such as; Metallica, Breaking Benjamin, Red, Chevelle, Linkin Park and Rise Against. Maybe not your typical OR music but it is what keeps me going as well as calms me down when necessary.


Raphael Rey Roybal, MD, MBA, Savannah (Ga.) Spine Institute, Chatham Orthopaedics: The one true music. Country western as in Johnny Cash, Avett Brothers, Asleep at the Wheel, Ryan Bingham, Flying Burrito Brothers, any of the Hank Williams (Real country- not the poppy junk). 


Nima Salari, MD, Desert Institute for Spine Care, Phoenix: I usually listen to today's music during cases but often switch it up with classical music for example.


Nick Shamie, MD, UCLA Health: Believe it or not, I actually don't bring any music to the OR. I am so focused on the patient and targeting their condition, that even if music was playing in the background, I wouldn't hear it. I listen to music on my drive home...and sometime crank it I did when in college!


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