Enhancing surgical performance by adopting expert musicians' practice and performance strategies

Mei Rui, Jean Nicholas Vauthey, Claudius Conrad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Surgery is a performing art-each surgical procedure is a live performance that has immediate and irreversible consequences for both the performer and the audience. Surgeons operate with surgical instruments, whereas musicians perform with musical instruments. Both perform in high-stress, high-risk work environments, where small errors in motor performance or judgment can have immediate negative consequences. While there is abundant literature on musical performance and their impact on outcome, little similar research has been published in the field of surgery. We aimed at identifying expert musicians' practice and performance strategies that may aid surgeons to enhance their surgical performance.

METHODS: In the study, 82 relevant English-language articles from 1974 to 2017 matched applicable search terms. Nominal Group Technique was applied to identify 5 key domains that comprise important parallels between surgical and expert musical performance.

RESULTS: The 5 key domains identified were: (1) extensive training and deliberate practice, (2) dexterity and ambidexterity, (3) performance evaluation and competition, (4) performance-related injuries, and (5) performance anxiety. We found focused and mindful training in motor performance, not performing immediately after a hiatus from practice, training to improve the precision and responsiveness of the nondominant hand, continuous and critical self-evaluation, training in injury recognition and prevention, and pharmacologic factors to be of utmost importance.

CONCLUSION: Critical parallels exist between surgical and expert musical performance that may improve surgical outcomes by adopting musicians' strategies for combating physiological and psychologic performance-related issues. Raising surgeons' awareness for this subject content may improve surgical performance and patient outcomes, as well as help prevent occupational injuries.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)894
Number of pages900
StatePublished - Jan 11 2018


  • surgical performance
  • music in medicine
  • music performance
  • music medicine
  • music intervention
  • performance anxiety


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