The value of hypnosis for breast cancer surgery

Is it possible that brief hypnosis might decrease anesthesia and pain medicine use, as well as side effects associated with breast cancer surgery?

First, the details: 200 patients scheduled for breast biopsy or lumpectomy were randomly assigned to…

  • a 15-minute presurgery hypnosis session conducted by a psychologist,
  • or nondirective empathic listening (attention control).
  • Obviously, patients were aware of their treatment.

And, the results.

  • Patients in the hypnosis group required significantly less propofol (Diprivan) and lidocaine (Xylocaine) than patients in the control group.
  • Hypnosis was also associated with less pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset.
  • No differences in the use of fentanyl (Duragesic), midazolam (Versed), or the use of pain medicine in the recovery room.
  • Patients in the hypnosis group cost $773 less to care for, mainly due to reduced surgical time.

The bottom line?
The application of hypnosis to surgical procedures is not new. An article by Dr. John Kihlstrom from the University of California, Berkeley discusses the history of hypnotism in surgery and the supporting clinical studies.

Dr. Kihlstrom says hypnosis passes 4 important tests.

  • Effective: Drugs plus hypnosis yield more pain relief than drugs alone.
  • Scientifically supported: Hypnosis is a specific treatment, different from both placebo and from other psychosocial interventions.
  • Cost effective: Reducing the cost of procedures by a nontrivial sum.
  • Improved quality of care.

8/31/07 20:38 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.