Bradt and Dileo (2010) Music Therapy for End-of-Life Care

literature type:

journal article


Joke Bradt and Cheryl Dileo. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010; No. 11: pp 1-32.


Music therapy in end-of-life care aims to improve a person's quality of life by helping relieve symptoms, addressing psychological needs, offering support, facilitating communication, and meeting spiritual needs. In addition, music therapists assist family and caregivers with coping, communication, and grief/bereavement.

To examine effects of music therapy with standard care versus standard care alone or standard care combined with other therapies on psychological, physiological, and social responses in end-of-life care.

Search Strategy:
We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PSYCINFO, LILACS, CancerLit, Science Citation Index,, CAIRSS for Music, Proquest Digital Dissertations,, Current Controlled Trials, and the National Research Register to September 2009. We handsearched music therapy journals and reference lists, and contacted experts to identify unpublished manuscripts. There was no language restriction.

Selection Criteria:
We included all randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials that compared music interventions and standard care with standard care alone or combined with other therapies in any care setting with a diagnosis of advanced life-limiting illness being treated with palliative intent and with a life expectancy of less than two years.

Data Collection and Analysis:
Data were extracted, and methodological quality was assessed, independently by review authors. Additional information was sought from study authors when necessary. Results are presented using weighted mean differences for outcomes measured by the same scale and standardized mean differences for outcomes measured by different scales. Posttest scores were used. In cases of statistically significant baseline difference, we used change scores.

Main Results:
Five studies (175 participants) were included. There is insufficient evidence of high quality to support the effect of music therapy on quality of life of people in end-of-life care. Given the limited number of studies and small sample sizes, more research is needed.No strong evidence was found for the effect of music therapy on pain or anxiety.These results were based on two small studies. There were insufficient data to examine the effect of music therapy on other physical, psychological, or social outcomes.

Authors' Conclusions:
A limited number of studies suggest there may be a benefit of music therapy on the quality of life of people in end-of-life care. However, the results stem from studies with a high risk of bias. More research is needed.


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