Posts Tagged ‘pain perception’

Hypnotherapy Can Aid Some With Surgery

December 12, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Debra Bruno in the Health & Science Section to the 12 November 2019 issue of the Washington Post. Some U.S. hospitals are offering hypnosis to patients to lessen preoperative anxiety, to manage postoperative pain, and even to substitute for general anesthesia for partial mastectomies in breast cancer. The article notes that hypnosis has been used of years to help people quit smoking, lose weight, get to sleep, and control stress.

Staff anesthesiologist Elizabeth Rebello of Houston MD Anderson Cancer Center uses hypnotherapy for segmental (partial) mastectomies and sentinel node biopsies, in which doctors identify and remove a lymph node in the underarm area as well as cancerous tumors in the breast.

Although there have been no published results yet of the hospital’s ongoing randomized control study comparing surgical patients who get either general anesthesia or hypnosis with local anesthesia, the feedback from the 60 hypnotized patients in the study has been positive. Before the surgery, patients have a 15 to 20 minute practice session with a hypnotherapist. During the breast surgery itself, the patients are awake and EEG monitoring of brain electric impulses show many patients responding to the hypnotherapy as if they were under sedation. When asked if whether they would undergo hypnotherapy again, the overwhelming response is “yes.”

The definition for hypnotherapy is “focused attention that allows a patient to enhance control over mind and body.” It can work for minor surgeries. It also could be an option for older patients who are more susceptible to delirium after general anesthesia.

Patients need to be able to expect that their pain can be controlled by a combination of local anesthesia and hypnosis. Anesthesiologists don’t want to compromise the procedure because the patient is suffering and in pain.

It is not surprising that hypnotherapy works with pain management. Pain perception, because it originates in the brain, can be different for every person. Hypnotherapy can alter how much pain a person feels. Stanford medical school offers patients classes in self-hypnosis to deal with a variety of medical issues, including pain, stress-related neurological problems, phobias, and side effects from medical treatments, such as nausea, vomiting, and cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Rebello, an associate professor in anesthesiology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, notes that using hypnotherapy in place of sedating and pain medications in some breast cancer surgeries has resulted in less reliance on opioids for relief during and after the procedure. She says, “Hypnosedation will not completely replace general anesthesia, but in some cases when the standard of care is general anesthesia, hypnosedation might be a better plan. If this is the case we owe it to our patients to explore this option.”