HYPNOSIS could be more widely used for pain relief, including in major surgery, for people who have adverse reactions to anaesthesia, a psychiatrist says.
Bob Large of the Auckland Regional Pain Service said about 10 to 15 per cent of the population was hypnotisable.
Dr Large said the technique had been used in Australia, citing the case of an Adelaide doctor who used hypnosis as an analgesic for abdominal surgery.
However, this approach was at the dramatic end of the spectrum and was rare, he said.
When hypnosis had been used in surgical procedures it had always been at the request of the patient who might have had previous adverse reactions to anaesthesia, Dr Large said.
Speaking on Saturday at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) in Perth, Dr Large said people who responded well to hypnosis could potentially have painless surgical operations.
“That kind of person, if they are engaged in an appropriate clinical way, can develop profound hypnotic analgesia, and can have an operation quite painlessly,” he told reporters on Saturday.
Although not everyone would respond well to hypnosis, there was still potential to use it in conjunction with anaesthesia to help patients relax and feel in control, he said.
“There is a lot of surgery that is done with local anaesthesia, epidurals, and sometimes with sedation … and there is the potential there for marrying the two kinds of techniques and engaging the patient in developing analgesia that will give the sense of control,” Dr Large said.
“It’s very good for people to feel that they have some internal resource, that they’ve got some ways of coping.
“It just makes them feel in control. And sometimes it can just melt their pain away totally. It’s rare, but it can happen.”
Dr Large said international studies had shown that patients with an active imagination were most likely to be successfully hypnotised.
Children aged eight to 12 were among the most responsive, he said.
Anaesthetists were the ideal group of medical professionals to deliver hypnosis, he said.
Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists president Kate Leslie said while some people were able to endure surgical procedures under hypnosis alone, the vast majority needed drugs.
Professor Leslie said research was needed to provide evidence that hypnosis could benefit surgical patients, and current evidence was mostly around hypnosis to manage pain.
(Michelle Henderson travelled to Perth to attend the conference courtesy of ANZCA.)