Hypnosis is beneficial for surgical patients

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Scientists from Jena and Leipzig examined the efficacy of hypnosis during surgic
Scientists from Jena and Leipzig examined the efficacy of hypnosis during surgical interventions. Image: Michael Szabó/UKJ

Meta-analysis reveals: Hypnosis relieves pain, reduces mental distress and promotes recovery after surgery

Hypnosis relieves pain, reduces mental distress and promotes recovery after surgical interventions - this has been shown in a meta-analysis recently published in Clinical Psychology Review. By evaluating 50 individual studies with over 4000 patients, scientists from Jena and Leipzig examined the efficacy of hypnosis in the context of surgical interventions.

The use of hypnosis in patients undergoing surgery has been studied for more than 50 years. In the specific context of surgery, hypnosis aims to reduce mental distress and pain and to promote recovery. In a currently published meta-analysis, scientists from the university hospitals in Jena and Leipzig have now summarized the current evidence on the efficacy of hypnosis for surgical patients.

As early as 2013, the research group of Dr. Jenny Rosendahl confirmed positive effects of hypnosis in patients undergoing surgery. Since then, numerous further studies have been carried out worldwide, which have now also been considered in order to complete and update the picture. A total of 50 randomized-controlled studies with 4,269 patients, including 23 new studies, were selected based on pre-defined criteria and their results were summarized.

In these studies, the patients had received hypnosis in addition to standard care before, during, or after surgery. This included, for example, gynecological or cardiac surgery as well as diagnostic procedures such as biopsies. "In most of the studies, hypnosis was performed by a present therapist, but also self-hypnosis with the help of a CD was applied. Usually it lasted about 30 minutes," Mareike Holler says about the studies, that she analyzed as part of her dissertation at the Institute for Psychosocial Medicine, Psychotherapy and Psychooncology at Jena University Hospital.

Effective help in stressful operations or painful procedures

The key elements of hypnotherapy are therapeutic suggestions aiming at changes in the subjective perception and in the patient’s behavior. In a surgery setting, the objectives of these suggestions are mainly imparting relaxation, reducing pain and rapid, uncomplicated wound healing. "In the evaluation of the studies, hypnosis proved to be an effective intervention," Mareike Holler says in summarizing the results, "it helps patients to reduce anxiety and stress, to alleviate pain and also to promote recovery after the procedure."

Hypnosis also demonstrated positive effects on economically relevant aspects. On average, patients who received hypnosis required fewer analgesics compared to patients without such treatment, and the surgical procedure could be completed in a shorter time. Co-author Dr. Jenny Rosendahl says, "Our analysis showed that hypnosis can effectively support patients in coping with stressful surgery. This was not only reflected in the patients’ assessments, but it was also measurable in objective clinical criteria."

Decision-making basis for healthcare providers

The authors consider it an important result of their meta-analysis, that the efficacy of hypnosis can be proven both on the basis of patient-relevant aspects such as mental distress or pain, and with regard to recovery, medication consumption, and procedure duration. "This can also serve as a basis for decision-making for healthcare providers. Since it is a short-term intervention and there is also the option of using audio recordings, hypnosis could be easily be integrated into the clinical routine," Mareike Holler says.

"Patients can benefit from hypnosis when undergoing surgery. But we need further high-quality trials in order to identify when and for which patients hypnosis is particularly beneficial", Jenny Rosendahl summarizes the conclusion of the meta-analysis.