Doctors at MD Anderson replace traditional anesthesia with hypnosis

December 17, 2019

An article written in the Daily Mail reports that doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas are replacing traditional anesthesia with hypnosis techniques combined with local anesthesia in order to reduce the need for harmful anesthetics in breast cancer patients undergoing breast lumpectomies. Anesthesia has various side effects including delirium, immune system suppression and addiction, therefore the MD Anderson approach has been to try to avoid the use of anesthetics where practical.  The team is finding that the use of hypnosis as an adjunct to local anesthesia improves patient experience, reducing anxiety during the procedure.

In practice, a hypnotherapist helps the patient focus all five senses on a calming scenario while undergoing the procedure. This focus taps into the patients fear and anxiety responses to help them stay calm. Thus far, they have successfully used this technique in over 50 breast surgeries. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at MD Anderson believes that this method could be used within other specialties as well. 

EHC Note: Today, anesthesia providers often use a cocktail of medications to sedate patients for many procedures. Like most medications, there are side effects to anesthesia administration but oftentimes patients do not have another alternative. Although it is very unlikely that hypnosis therapy will be widely used any time soon (or ever for complex surgeries), the idea of creating an alternative to traditional anesthesia for relatively simple procedures is welcome.  This is especially true at a time where the demand for anesthesia continues to increase and expand to new locations, threatening the demand for anesthesia providers to exceed the supply.