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Together, hypnosis and local anesthesia may offer better surgical outcomes

Together, hypnosis and local anesthesia may offer better surgical outcomesAccording to a pair of European studies, using hypnosis in combination with local anesthesia may speed healing, reduce the need for post-operative drugs, and reduce hospitalization time for certain surgeries that typically require a general anesthetic.

In a Belgian study of 78 breast cancer patients, 18 women experienced hypnosis and local anesthetic for partial mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy, or lymph node removal while the others had general anesthesia for the same procedures. In the other study involving 54 thyroid patients, 18 had the hypnosis/local anesthesia combination for removal of the thyroid gland while the others underwent general anesthetic.

In both studies, patients undergoing the combination hypnosis/local anesthesia option fared better in terms of recovery time, hospital stay, and opiate drug use. Additionally, researchers found that the potential effectiveness of hypnosis is not affected by either gender or age. Instead, they found that patient motivation, trust, and willingness to undergo hypnosis are keys to a successful outcome.

“There is still a lot of debate around the exact mechanism that allows hypnosis to reduce pain perception,” said study author and Brussels’ Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc (UCL) professor Fabienne Roelants, “but what is absolutely clear is that it does so.”

In fact, other researchers have used brain imaging scans including MRI during hypnosis to document a reduction in pain perception.

“Our studies have shown considerable benefits for the [local anesthetic]/hypnosis combination,” said co-author Dr. Christine Watremez, also of UCL, “and that such benefits are not only for patients, but also for health-care systems. By using [this combination] we can reduce the costs involved in longer hospital stays, remove the need for patients to use opioid drugs, and increase their overall comfort and satisfaction levels.”

In another important connection for breast cancer patients, Roelants also said that “being able to avoid general anesthesia in breast cancer surgery is important because we know that local anesthesia can block the body’s stress response to surgery and could therefore reduce the possible spread of metastases.”

Even with such positive indications from these small studies, physicians and patients should remember that these findings are not conclusive. According to Dr. Daniel Sessler, professor and chair of the department of outcomes research at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, “This is not a formal comparison of two anesthesiology options. So, while on the one hand this legitimately shows that [the researchers] were able to use this hypnosis technique among particular patients – and that for them it worked – this is not a formal evaluation of hypnosis.”

For more on hypnosis, visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. More about the studies reviewed here can be found at and U.S. News.


July 25, 2011