Surgery while you're wide awake? MD Anderson doctors using hypnosis instead of general anesthesia

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Sunday, May 6, 2018
Practical uses of hypnosis beyond entertainment
Practical uses of hypnosis beyond entertainment

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new clinical study at MD Anderson Cancer Center is using hypnosedation as a replacement for general anesthesia on early stage breast cancer patients.

Patients would still receive pain medications and local anesthesia, but they won't be completely knocked out during certain types of lumpectomies.

"Do we need to use the same anesthesia, the same approach for every patient for every cancer? Probably not. As patients we're all different, the cancers are all different, the surgeries are different," explained Dr. Dalliah Black, a breast surgical oncologist.

Mind-body intervention specialist Rosalinda Engle joins the patient in the room during the procedure to administer a series of relaxation techniques to lull the patient into a hypnotic trance.

"Your breathing is slow and steady," she explained. "Our muscles are deeply relaxed and you tend to not want to move or talk very much."

"I could hear things in the background, but I don't know if I can really comprehend them," said patient Beverly Levinson.

Doctors with MD Anderson say general anesthesia can weaken immune systems, and by skipping it and opting for hypnosedation, many patients have found a speedier recovery process.

Beyond the operating room, mind-body specialist Engle says many patients can apply the skills of hypnosis to their everyday routines.

"This is a wonderful way to teach patients, not just for their surgical procedure, but throughout their cancer continuum experience that they can play a very active role by simply engaging their mind and where they want to place their thoughts and on a regular, daily basis, training themselves to breathe slowly, deeply," said Engle.

The doctors at MD Anderson do say that hypnosedation is not for every patient or every surgery, though they do hope the trial will help them identify how it can be used in other procedures.