Marquis had been hypnotized before surgery to have her thyroid removed. She's among a growing number of surgical patients at the Belgian hospital, Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc in Brussels, who choose hypnosis and a local anesthetic to avoid the groggy knockout effect of general anesthesia.These patients are sedated but aware, and doctors say their recovery time is faster and their need for painkillers reduced. This method is feasible for only certain types of operations.
In her case, Marquis, 53, imagined herself in a field near a beach — which her anesthetist began describing by whispering into her ear about 10 minutes before surgery. She remembers hearing the doctors talk to her, but said it was as if they were far away.
"I was imagining squishing my toes in the sand and feeling water come up over them," Marquis said. She felt a little pressure on her neck with the first incision but said it wasn't painful.
Since doctors began offering hypnosis at the hospital in 2003, hundreds of patients have chosen it. At another Belgian hospital, more than 8,000 surgeries have been done this way since 1992.
Doctors say nearly any surgery usually done with a local anesthetic could work with hypnosis and less pain medicine. Proponents say hypnosis can dull patients' sense of pain and that it also cuts down on the need for anesthetic.
That means patients recover faster and hospitals save money, according to some studies. But it may require doctors to spend more time with patients beforehand to do the hypnosis and they may need more careful monitoring during surgery.
The technique has become increasingly popular in France and Belgium in recent years. Some plastic and facial surgeons in Germany also use hypnosis, as well as some British dental surgeons.
The French Society of Anesthesiologists describes hypnosis as a valid way to supplement anesthesia to reduce stress, anxiety and pain but neither the Belgian nor British anesthesiology groups offer specific hypnosis advice. Because of demand, the French Society of Anesthesiologists created a special hypnosis branch in their organization last year.More.