How Can Hypnosis Help With Surgery?

How Can Hypnosis Help With Surgery?

How Can Hypnosis Help With Surgery


Can Hypnosis Replace Anesthesia?


Hypnosis for surgery, or hypnosurgery, is a term for a procedure where the patient can be sedated instead of using conventional anesthetics by incorporating hypnotherapy. Hypnosis for anesthesia has been reportedly used since the 1840s, in which surgeon James Braid was a pioneer.


Braid’s work was not restricted to the English speaking world; he also applied his ideas to Canada where he performed a number of successful hypnotherapy programs. After his pioneering work, Braid’s career continued to flourish and he produced numerous articles and reports in the medical journals.


How Can Hypnosis Help With Surgery?  Hypnosis is a type of non-verbal communication used to communicate with someone through the mind-state of sleep. A hypnotized person will respond to spoken commands and be capable of reacting to subtle and not-so-subtle stimuli.


Hypnosis Anesthesia Surgery


To perform hypnotic manipulation of a person (including using a hypnosis technique), it is necessary to create a state of suspended arousal by manipulating the level and tone of the person’s heart rate which is dependent on the degree of brain activity. This is then controlled by using simple verbal commands or suggestions.



Pain is devastating when you magnify the adverse effects of pain when ruminating about the physical pain associated with surgery. Negative ideas and beliefs about pain often contribute to deteriorating emotional and social functioning and a decreased response to painful medical procedures.


Hypnosis differs from CBT, an understanding of pain and a more self-directed, action-oriented approach to your emotions.


Hypnosis For Surgery Preparation


How Is Hypnotherapy Administered? Hypnosis Surgery for Cancer Patients


In thirty-seven patients undergoing surgery, a technique replacing general anesthetics was used to remove brain tumors, scientists reported in the Journal Neurosurgery. Although there was little knowledge to back surgery hypnotherapy at the time of the study, the authors concluded that hypnosis may be a viable tool for patients to sedate in sensitive brain surgery due to their small study success.


“Hypnosis appears to be a useful technique for sedating patients undergoing brain surgery,” study researcher George Z. Lee, MD, says in an accompanying news release.


“Although there are limited data to document this, it appears that a hypnotic method can be a useful adjunct to anesthesia and have the potential to reduce both recovery times and patient distress during brain surgery,” he says.


Does Hypnosis Work For Surgery?


To be sure, hypnosis, while well-regarded in its own right, is not a substitute for the powerful drug sedation commonly used during surgery. However, in the short term, it’s a safe, effective way to approach sedation.


In most cases, anesthesiologists sleep patients for the beginning of such an operation – while opening the skull – lift them in the center, and then put them back to sleep for the operation.


The technique is called an asleep-awake-asleep procedure (AAA). There were however two major drawbacks: doctors should monitor and control patient breathing during the operation which has been performed; and it may take some (especially older) patients a while to fully wake up from anesthesia, which increases operating time.




Does It Matter If You Fall Asleep During Hypnosis?


Now, in the latest developments in brain-imaging methods being developed by the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) program, scientists have demonstrated for the first time that patients awake during the surgery, but do not require additional stimulation to regain awareness or to be awake and moving toward the operating table afterward. And, it does not seem that the patients feel any pain when awake. But, the study can still provide clues as to how the process of awakening and moving is managed.



To make hypnosis effective, a few weeks before the surgery patients are required to meet a hypnotist and practice getting into their trance frame of reference. Then, once they were “in,” they had to listen to the hypnotist speak a series of instructions. After a total commitment to the course of action, a full list of all the hypnosis suggestions was given and the patient was given instructions on what to say when he heard the suggestions to his mind.


The stupor-based procedure was demonstrated to over forty patients by researchers. Out of the eleven AAA patients, two chose the standard procedure.  Three underwent emergency surgery and could not train for hypnosis, while the remaining six were willing to try hypnosis.  However, they were unable to get into the trance when the operation was done.


Getting Jitters at the Last Minute


Just before the surgery was to commence, they changed to an AAA procedure. But the main problem with AAA is the lack of an initial procedure. That means anesthesia is required, which can be tough. And, according to the researchers, even the slightest trauma can cause the patient to drop down into a deep trance.


The remaining thirty-seven patients underwent an operation with hypnoses, pain relievers and local anesthesia, which required several procedures in some of the patients to carry out recurring tumors. In total, forty-three operations were conducted with hypnotized patients.


Researchers were surprised by many of their findings because they only had a handful of patients with invasive brain tumors who were hypnotized under the hypnosis technique and then sedated during surgery. As a result, the team was further encouraged in using this methodology in additional studies on how to use hypnosis to help treat brain tumors.


Hypnosis for Surgery Preparation – Hypnosis in the Operation Room


Beverly was referred to the Anderson Cancer Center for a lumpectomy at the University of Texas MD. This is a procedure to remove irregular or cancerous tissue and a small part of the healthy tissue surrounding it. She wasn’t as nervous about the procedure as she was about general anesthesia. She had undergone general anesthesia in previous surgeries, but she experienced severe jaw pain from opening her mouth wide enough for her breathing tube to be inserted in her throat because of her (TMJ) condition.


Her doctor suggested to her to participate with a continuing clinical trial to prevent anesthesia via hypnosis. The experiment examined fifty patients, still in their pilot stage, who were randomly selected either to have general or regional anesthesia or hypnosedation before or during the operation.


There is an intravenous line inserted in both cases, and an anesthesiologist is present to give her a drug cocktail. The anesthesiologist controls the vitality of patients with hypnosis, administers pain or vomiting medication.  She also can switch to general anesthesia if the patient experiences any feelings of being uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the anesthetist monitors the well-being of the individual. While the anesthesiologist monitors the patient’s vital signs, they often have a full complement of nurses and other helpers, helping them to the operating table, the hospital’s operating room or surgery center.


Self-Hypnosis Before Surgery


Beverly was led by the doctor in what to expect on the day of the operation. The room is sterile and consists of five or six people. The lights are luminous. During the procedure, the clinical hypnotherapist would sit by her to make sure that she was relaxed.


Beverly was out of her bed, dressed and walking around, less than an hour after her operation was over. The unpleasant side effects of general anesthesia were not an issue.  She had recovered quicker and thus no painkillers required after the operation. Researchers concluded that the patient needs to be receptive to hypnosedation for it to work successfully.




If a patient does not wish to be sedated then there are variations on the technique. This includes the use of hypnotic suggestion to arouse the patient and inducing hypnosis while the anesthetist administers a narcotic and administering various sedatives.


These methods allow doctors to increase the sedation, thereby preventing the patient from resisting any further medication. This reduces the risk of a severe reaction and may improve the outcome of the treatment.

Mark Barrus

Mark Barrus is the Director of Healthy Life Centers. I have been in the Hypnosis industry for over 20 years, and have written many articles about the efficacy and effectiveness of Hypnotherapy to overcome unwanted habits and actions. Twenty years of Case Study research and examination have helped me to inform the industry on the results and be a leader in the field. I originally worked with Dr. Richard Neves, the former head of the American Board of Hypnotherapy, training other Hypnotherapists in Advanced Smoking Cessation protocols. In February 2005, we also started Healthy Life Centers, in Orange County, CA

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