Date of Award


Degree Type

Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review

Degree Name

Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant


Physician Assistant Studies


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not “Does music therapy reduce distress in pediatric oncology patients?”

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review of three randomized controlled trials (RCTs). All studies were published in English between 2010 and 2017.

DATA SOURCES: Three RCTs were obtained from PubMed and published in peer reviewed journals. The studies were chosen based on their relevance to the clinical question and their inclusion of patient-oriented outcomes (POEMS).

OUTCOMES MEASURED: In all of the articles used for this review, the main outcome measured was distress reduction. The participants’ level of distress was measured with either the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Kidcope measurement tool, or a behavioral coding form of child affect. Distress levels were reported both before and after the oncology procedure or treatment.

RESULTS: In the RCT conducted by Nguyen et al., there was a significant reduction in distress in the music group compared to the control group. The mean difference between groups was calculated to be 1.4. The p-value was < 0.001, making this study statistically significant with a large treatment effect. The RCT conducted by Barry et al. showed a p-value of 0.076 with a NNT of 2 and RBI of 1. This study approached significance with a large treatment effect. In the RCT conducted by Robb et al., the mean difference was 1.07 with a p-value of 0.040, indicating this study to be statistically significant with a large treatment effect.

CONCLUSIONS: Statistical significance was found in two of the three RCTs based on the reported p-values. The calculated p-value for one of the RCTs approached statistical significance. The music intervention group in each study showed a large treatment effect in comparison to the control groups. The results of this review suggest that music therapy can reduce distress in pediatric oncology patients. Future studies could be done to improve external validity.