Hypnosis Eases Pain During, After Surgery

Hypnosis has been offered for certain types of surgery at the Belgian hospital, Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc in Brussels, since 2003. Hundreds of patients have chosen it over general anesthesia.

According to the AP, more than 8,000 surgeries have been performed at another Belgian hospital with hypnosis. The technique has become popular in France and Belgium in recent years and some plastic and facial surgeons in Germany also use hypnosis, as well as some British dental surgeons.

During surgery, patients are sedated but aware and doctors say recovery time is faster and the need for painkillers is reduced.

The AP reports that doctors say nearly any surgery usually done with a local anesthetic could work with hypnosis and less pain medicine. There are plenty of believers in hypnosis who say it dulls a patients' sense of pain and cuts down on the need for anesthetic.

In the end, it leads to faster recoveries and monetary savings on the part of hospitals. However, hypnosis may require doctors to spend more time with patients beforehand to do the hypnosis and they may need more careful monitoring during surgery.

With its growing popularity, the French Society of Anesthesiologists created a special hypnosis branch in their organization last year.

Still, there are no statistics on how widely used hypnosis is across Europe.

Claude Virot, a psychiatrist and director of the Institute of Research and Training in Therapeutic Communication, told the AP in several of the nearly dozen French hospitals in Rennes, a northwest city of about 200,000 people, it's used in about half of all operations.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fabienne Roelants, an anesthetist at Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc, said, “The patient's mind goes to a pleasant place, but the body stays in the operating room.”

Roelants estimated at her hospital, one-third of all surgeries to remove thyroids and one-quarter of all breast cancer surgeries, including biopsies and mastectomies, use hypnosis and local anesthetic and she hopes to expand the technique to hernias, knee arthroscopies and plastic surgeries.

Roelants did emphasize to the AP that should a patient feel any pain during a procedure using hypnosis, they would immediately be given a painkiller shot.