Music benefits surgery patients even when played while they are on the operating table, a study has found.
Research shows that listening to music played before, after and even during surgery leads to reduced pain, anxiety and need for painkillers.
Scientists pooled the results of 73 trials looking at the impact of music on almost 7,000 surgical patients.
The findings confirmed that playing music produced significant benefits, especially when patients were able to choose the music they liked.
The best outcomes occurred when music was played before rather than after an operation.
But, surprisingly, even listening to music while under general anaesthetic appeared to reduce pain levels.
Lead researcher Dr Catherine Meads, from Brunel University, said: "Currently music is not used routinely during surgery to help patients in their postoperative recovery. The lack of uptake is often down to the scepticism of professionals as to whether it genuinely works, and of course issues of budget and the integration into daily practice.
"We hope this study will now shift misperceptions and highlight the positive impact music can have."
Dr Meads, who carried out the research while based at Queen Mary, University of London, added that care had to be taken to ensure music did not "interfere with the medical team's communication".
Patients taking part in the studies underwent a wide variety of surgical procedures involving different parts of the body.
Those having surgery on the central nervous system, head and neck were excluded because of the potential effects on hearing.
Choice of music, timing and duration also varied. But the evidence suggested that these factors made little difference to outcomes.
The findings are reported in the latest edition of The Lancet medical journal.
Co-author Dr Martin Hirsch, from Queen Mary, University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, said: "We have known since the time of Florence Nightingale that listening to music has a positive impact on patients during surgery, by making them feel calmer and reducing pain. However, it's taken pulling together all the small studies on this subject into one robust meta-analysis to really prove it works."
Each year around 4.6 million operations are performed in England. Most people undergo a surgical procedure at some point in their lives.