Nowadays, hypnosis is used by health care professionals as a complement to other scientific or clinical treatments. As the well-being of patients is the primary focus, medical hypnosis is proposed to decrease patients suffering, to prepare patients about to undergo surgery, odontology, and others.
Hypnosis has been used by western cultures for over 200 years. Hypnosis consists of verbal repetition and mental images which lead to a particular state of consciousness. When conducted by a trained therapist or a health care professional, hypnosis is considered safe. However, although rare, adverse reactions include headaches, drowsiness, anxiety and creation of false memories.
To date, around 20 studies have investigated the effectiveness of hypnosis for different subjects such as anaesthetics or functional pathologies, with various degrees of success. As an example, in 1995 Faymonville et al. described the use of hypnosis for plastic surgery, which required a conscious sedation. In this study, they investigated the benefits of hypnosis in supplementing local anesthesia.
Three groups of patients were formed depending on the sedation technique used: intravenous sedation (using only midazolam and alfentanil), hypnosis trance level, and relaxation with hypnosis without attaining a trance level. For all patients, the drugs were titrated to ensure the patient’s immobility.
Patients in both the hypnosis and the relaxation group reported an intra-operative anxiety level that was significantly less than in the sedation group. The highest pain level scores during the surgery were reported by the intravenous sedation group. It is also important to note that hypnosis meant patients require a lower amount of drugs and also fewer side effects of surgery. Nevertheless, the benefits of hypnosis are reported by patients which makes it difficult to translate these into numeric data and to obtain results with strong statistics.
More recently in 2010, in an attempt to try to understand the mechanisms of hypnosis, a study from Nusbaum et al. investigated the cerebral mechanisms produced during hypnosis. Cerebral activity from 14 patients suffering from lower back pain was observed with cerebral imaging (PET and MRI).
The results showed the activation of different brain networks for patients under hypnosis. In 2015, Jensen et al. gave a review of factors that influenced the efficiency of hypnosis: it is possible to explain hypnosis acceptance by taking into account factors from biological, psychological, and social domains.
In France, hypnosis is being implemented in hospitals and considered as an alternative medicine that can be partially reimbursed by their social security system when the consultation is performed by an approved doctor. For example, emergency physicians from Marseille use hypnosis to decrease patient’s anxiety during assessments and operations.
FAYMONVILLE M.E. Hypnosis as adjunct therapy in conscious sedation for plastic surgery. Regional anesthesia, 1995, 20(2):145-151
GUEGUEN J. Evaluation de l’efficacité de la pratique de l’hypnose, Dossier INSERM
JENSEN MP. Mechanisms of hypnosis: toward the development of biopsychosocial model. Int J Clin Exp Hypn, 2016, 63(1):34-75.
NUSBAUM F. Caractérisation des réseaux cérébraux en jeu dans la modulation de la douleur chronique par hypnose. Laboratoire Santé-Individu-Société de Lyon, 2010
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