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Anesthesia Alert: Believe in the Power of Hypnosis
Sedating patients with guided imagery and local anesthetics
Elizabeth Rebello
Publish Date: January 14, 2020   |  Tags:   Anesthesia
SOOTHING VOICE Hypnotherapists help patients recall the details of comforting memories as they guide them through surgery.   |   MD Anderson Cancer Center

I know what you're thinking, and no, hypnosedation doesn't involve swinging a pocket watch while telling patients you're getting sleepy very, very sleepy before surgery. Hypnosedation combines hypnosis with the incremental doses of local anesthetics to keep patients calm and comfortable during surgery without the use of inhalational gases or short-acting sedatives.

The concept is neither new (Scottish neurosurgeon James Braid coined the term "hypnosis" in the 1840s to describe the state of deep relaxation he put his patients in) nor experimental (the National Comprehensive Cancer Network lists hypnosis in its pain management guidelines). It's also not yet mainstream, however, so let's explore the anesthesia alternative that's no cheap parlor trick.

A team of collaborators from the breast surgery, integrative medicine and anesthesia departments here at MD Anderson Cancer Center implemented a hypnosedation program for patients undergoing segmental mastectomies with sentinel node biopsy and intraoperative lymph node mapping.

Candidates for hypnosedation are assessed on a case-by-case basis, but patients who respond positively to the idea and are open to trying it generally have the right temperament and attitude to be successfully hypnotized. Patients who agree to be hypnotized meet with a hypnotherapist before scheduled procedures to practice entering a hypnotic state and learn about what to expect during the process.

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