Apr 21 2008

Surgery Under Hypnosis

Over the weekend there have been numerous new reports breathlessly reporting the case of Alex Lenkei who underwent ordinarily painful hand surgery using hypnosis instead of anesthesia. At face value, the reports are stunning. Mr. Lenkei, who is a professional hypnotist, “hypnotized” himself prior to having surgery on his right hand for osteoarthritis. The surgery involved opening up the skin and tissue over the thumb and wrist down to the bone, sawing and chipping away bone, and fusing bones. Mr. Lenkei reports feeling no pain during the procedure, just some pulling and prodding. The surgeon, David Llewellyn-Clark, reports that his vital signs were monitored during the procedure and were stable, indicating that he was feeling no pain.

What should an open-minded skeptic make of such a tale?

Let us consider all possible explanations and evaluate them for plausibility and also see if they jibe with the facts as presented in the media. I read about 30 accounts of the story, and watched the video interview with Mr. Lenkei and Dr. Llewellyn-Clark.  On the whole I was very disappointed in the reporting. None of the reporters asked the questions I would have asked, and I had to read many accounts to piece together the details that I do have. I think this reflects the need for dedicated science journalists – but that’s another blog post.

I have e-mailed the hospital and I am trying to get contact information for Dr. Llewellyn-Clark so that I can fill in the missing details. If I do I will add an addendum to the post with the new information. Meanwhile, here are several possible hypotheses to explain this story.

Hypothesis #1 – The story is true as reported.

If the story is accurate and correct as reported, then Mr. Lenkei had no anesthesia and his only form of pain control was his self-hypnosis.  I find this to be highly implausible. As a matter of definition – we must first distinguish stage-hypnotism from the kind used by Mr. Lenkei, which is probably better described as deep meditation.

It is true that pain is a subjective experience and is highly modified by our mood and attention. If we focus on the pain, even a minor pain can become very bothersome. Likewise, if we are distracted from our pain it can diminish significantly. Fear and anxiety will also tend to exacerbate the perception of pain. So it is plausible that using meditation to focus one’s attention elsewhere and keep oneself calm and free from fear and anxiety will significantly reduce the perception of pain. This can also reduce the need for sedation and pain killing surrounding a surgical procedure.

This technique is called hypnoanesthesia and it has been around for a few decades. However, hypnoanesthesia involves “hypnosis, local anesthesia and minimal conscious sedation.” That’s right – local anesthesia and conscious sedation. The hypnosis component is used to minimize the amount of sedation required – but does not obviate the need for local anesthesia. Local anesthesia means using lidocaine injections (or a similar medication) to numb the nerve endings in the location of the surgery. Conspicuously absent from every news report of the Lenkei case was any specific mention of local anesthesia (more on this below).

If we assume that the news reports, however, were accurate in saying the Mr. Lenkei has no anesthesia at all – not local or general – is it feasible that he could feel no pain from such a procedure through self-hypnosis alone? I don’t think so. There are naturally occurring endorphins in the nervous system that bind to receptors that decrease pain perception. It is these receptors that opiates – morphine-like drugs – bind to and activate. So it is possible that Mr. Lenkei could have learned through practice to respond to pain with a large dose of endorphins (or perhaps it is just natural for him to do so) and this significantly blunted the pain.

However – endorphins would not make one numb to the painful stimulus. It would reduce the perception of pain and specifically reduce the emotional content of pain, but would not render one numb. Mr. Lenkei reported feeling no pain at all. I consider this to be highly implausible.

Also of note the news stories report that Mr. Lenkei put himself into a hypnotic “trance” and yet during the procedure he was chatting with the surgeon – asking him how the procedure was going. He was also aware of conversations in the room and various sensations of the surgery – like pulling, and noted that his arm was in an uncomfortable position and he felt like he wanted to move it. This does not sound like much of a trance.

Hypothesis #2 – Local Anesthesia

As I stated above, hypnoanesthesia involves reduced sedation but still includes the use of local anesthesia to block the pain. Given that this detail was not specifically reported, I think the most likely explanation of this story is that Mr. Lenkei received injections to numb the region of surgery. He used self-hypnosis to remain clam and still, and therefore did not require any sedation.  If this scenario is true, then all the news reports were wildly misleading to the general public.

I find this hypothesis to be far and away the most plausible and likely.

Hypothesis #3 – His hand was already numb

Mr. Lenkei has severe osteoarthritis of the right hand – that was the focus of the surgery. It is possible that he also had nerve damage in his hand. Perhaps he has severe carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar neuropathy -meaning that two of the main nerves that supply sensation to the hand are damaged. Therefore he may not have needed anesthesia because his hand was already profoundly numb. The surgeons may not have been aware of this (they are bone surgeons and perhaps did not document a careful neurological exam – not uncommon in my experience) and therefore they were “stunned” by Mr. Lenkei’s ability to tolerate the surgery.

Hypothesis #4 – Mr. Lenkei cheated.

Mr. Lenkei is a practicing hypnotist, and he may have seen his surgery as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of his craft and garner some free press.  If that was his goal, he succeeded spectacularly. It is possible that he has pulled off a stunt, fooling his surgeons and the press. He could easily have obtained some narcotics, for example, and then medicated himself just prior to the surgery.

Hypothesis #5 – Multi-factorial

Finally, we may be dealing with a combination of factors.  Perhaps Mr. Lenkei naturally has a very high pain threshold, and he has some nerve damage in that hand and therefore has reduced sensation. He may also have taken some pain medications prior to the surgery, or perhaps had some local anesthesia that is not being reported.

Conclusion

To be clear – I am not accusing Mr. Lenkei or his surgeons of anything. I am simply laying out various hypotheses given the information available on this story. I would love to have the opportunity to test these hypotheses, by questioning Mr. Lenkei and/or his surgeon. The question of local anesthesia should be the easiest to resolve.

If only the mainstream media utilized more dedicated science journalists – and in a health-related case ones with medical training. A skeptical and knowledgeable journalist should have asked the penetrating questions to ascertain whether or not this story is actually true. Instead the public was treated to a superficial and sensationalized account that is likely highly misleading.

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28 responses so far

28 Responses to “Surgery Under Hypnosis”

  1. Jim Shaveron 21 Apr 2008 at 10:44 am

    Dr. Novella:

    Even if it were possible for someone to meditate to such a relaxed state that he could ignore the pain of surgery, wouldn’t he still be subject to reflexive reactions? I would think that, for that reason alone, no respectable surgeon would want to take the risk that a simple reflex in the patient could cause a serious surgical mistake.

    Which brings up another point. If hypothesis #1 or hypothesis #4 is correct, wouldn’t that imply that the surgeon and any other medical staff were complicit in performing such a potentially risky stunt? Is that proper medical ethics?

  2. DevilsAdvocateon 21 Apr 2008 at 11:10 am

    I had minor outpatient surgery last year and one of the last functions prior to surgery was a drug screen. Afterwards, I asked my doctor why that test so close to the time of the surgery? He said too many of his patients, fearful of suffering pain while awake for surgery, were ‘preloading’ pain meds, typically codeine based pain killers, and that he needed to know everything on board prior to surgery.

    If Dr. Novella is able to contact Dr. Llewellyn-Clark it will interesting to see if a drug screen was obtained just prior to surgery.

  3. Tom Nielsenon 21 Apr 2008 at 11:12 am

    This is one of those cases that require extraordinary evidence.

    If the surgeons knew beforehand that the surgery would be performed without anesthetics, they could easily have checked his hands for sensation before the hypnosis by pricking his hand with a needle (of course requiring him to look away while doing it). This simple test could have done wonders for the story’s credibility.

    I know this is a poor argument, but I find it suspicious how incredible stories always seem to lack proper scientific control, or are extremely difficult to verify.

    I find the public to already have a distorted image of hypnosis. This story sure doesn’t help.

    I hope you will write a blog entry on the medical evidence of the efficacy of hypnosis, Steven. Personally I have always been very skeptical of hypnosis, especially when it comes to stage hypnosis, which I think can easily be explained by diverse sociological pressures, the desire to loose ones inhibitions, and the subtle implicit directions of the hypnotist. Clinical hypnosis I find to be more tricky, especially depending on ones definition of hypnosis, and for what purpose it is used for (though I basically think that it all purely boils down to the power of suggestion, and peoples willingness to do what they are told).

  4. Roy Nileson 21 Apr 2008 at 1:43 pm

    The question to ask is, how did the surgeon know in advance that the patient would not feel any pain in such a complicated procedure, where an inability to tolerate the pain could have ruined the operation? He wouldn’t have just taken the patient’s word for it.

  5. Roy Nileson 21 Apr 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Note that the article said: “An anaesthetist remained on standby throughout the operation to administer an anaesthetic if necessary.”

    This is supposed to explain why the surgeon took the chance of operating while uncertain of the efficacy of the self-hypnosis.

    Presumably this anaesthetist had an instant painkiller available that would allow bone sawing to proceed without any need to restrain the patient in the interim, or otherwise risk botching the operation.

  6. TsuDhoNimhon 21 Apr 2008 at 4:15 pm

    In the 1970s I was the lab tech doing blood gases for a urgent abdominal aneurism repair that was done with hypnosis as the main anaesthetic. As best I remember, here’s how it went:

    1 – Patient had some condition, perhaps allergy, that prevented the normal anaesthestics.

    2 – The hypnosis was done by an obstetrician who was also a trained hypnotherapist. The patient had already shown strong suceptibility to hypnosis or they wouldn’t have been even attempting it. The OB’s patients delivered many babies under hypnosis – the dude was good!

    3 – During the surgery, in addition to the hypnotist, there was an anaesthelogist sitting by the patient, ready to use whatever anaesthetic was possible, in case the patient suddenly came out of the trance state. I have no clue what he had planned for emergency backup.

    He was also administering O2, and maybe some IV sedatives or muscle relaxants. He was also the one taking the arterial blood from the line and checking the results.

    4 – We were instructed to be VERY quiet. There was none of the usual casual chatter. Some of us were handed big bandaids to wear as a reminder. 8-X We were to move quietly and keep movement to a minimum.

    If the worst happened, my instructions were to go to my “corner” and stand there until further orders.

    5 – They used local for the incision. I remember hearing the surgeon say that there would be some “pin prick feelings”. They may have been liberally sloshing Lidocaine onto his innards, but I wasn’t paying attention to what they were doing.

    The surgeon was extremely experienced, had his usual team, and was moving at his usual pace, just minus the usual chatter.

    6 – The patient’s view of things was blocked off – he and the hypnotist were behind some drapes – to minimize the chances of an accidental end to the trance.The hypnotist and the patient were conversing almost constantly, with the patient reporting what he felt (pressure and things moving) and the hypnotist apparently controlling the depth of the trance.

    The anaesthesiologist was sitting where he could see the patient and pass me the samples from behind his curtain and take the results slip from me.

    It was strange … very strange. Like that episode of Buffy where no one can talk.

    Keys to the success: the doctors were very calm guys, very persuasive, and if they had any doubts they didn’t let the patient see them. The patient was highly suggestible and under controlled conditions … no one was allowed to express any doubts in his presence pre-op. The surgical team was experienced. I just had to be real quiet and stay out of the way.

    It took a lot more time on the part of three doctors and the nursing staff to make it happen, but the patient got his repairs and went home. I don’t know if they ever published anything about it.

  7. Mike Reeves-McMillanon 21 Apr 2008 at 5:23 pm

    OK, disclosure: I’m a hypnotherapist.

    @Roy Niles: I think if you listen to the video interview (http://www.worthingherald.co.uk/worthing/VIDEO-Worthing39s-hypnotic-surgery.3998400.jp) the surgeon does mention performing a test that the arm was numb before the surgery.

    It’s usual to have an anaesthetist standing by in such circumstances.

    Hypnotic pain control for surgery is neither new nor uncommon. It was widely practiced before the availability of chemical anaesthetic agents, which work reliably on a larger proportion of the population and without a training process.

    Dentistry and childbirth are two areas in which hypnosis for anaesthesia is commonly used. During my training, I watched a remarkable film from the 1960s of a woman giving birth by caesarian section under hypnosis with no chemical anaesthesia or analgesia.

    To have such a significant surgery as Mr Lenkei’s without chemical anaesthetic is unusual, but certainly not unheard-of.

    Nor does a hypnotic “trance” preclude being aware of what is going on in the surroundings or being able to communicate, by the way.

    Don’t take my word for it, of course, since I’m evidently biased. There’s a good summary of the relevant scientific studies available from Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2005):

    http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/pdf%2F8004%2F8004r2%2Epdf

  8. mike Don 21 Apr 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Extending on what Dr. Novella said about the local anesthesia hypothesis, and correct me if I’m wrong, but injection of anesthetic on the ulnar or median nerves (nerve block) could’ve easily blocked pain transmission from the hand; and thus be another plausible hypothesis to consider. Combine this with focused and practiced relaxation (i.e., “meditation”), I think one could “appear” physiologically normal on a cardiac/respiratory monitor during surgery.

    Thanks for the distinction between the various forms of hypnosis Dr. Novella. It always seems the various pseudosciences have many more subtle levels of ridiculousness than it at first seems. It’s great to see just how deep it goes. My mother, now a “certified hypnotist” has been trying to hypnotize me for over 5 years. Fortunately, I have resisted; but things like this make her push me more.

    I anticipate the full outcome of this story.

  9. Roy Nileson 21 Apr 2008 at 6:21 pm

    If the hypnotist anesthetized his hand in any way prior to the operation, and didn’t tell the surgeon, would the surgeon have still operated under the belief the patient could with relative certainty make himself oblivious to the pain? Would the presence of an standby anesthetist really allow a competent surgeon to proceed under these circumstances?
    If the answers are no and no, there’s a fraud and all three are in on it.

  10. TsuDhoNimhon 21 Apr 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Mike D:

    Good thought. I had one injection like that and it was like my hand was not there for a couple of hours. I couldn’t wiggle my fingers.

    That and some valium might be enough to eliminate the need for “general anaesthesia”. Also, if you had a nerve block, you would not be able to feel any other injections in the hand.

    TDN

    Why does your mom want to hypnotize you? Tell her that it’s like any other medical procedure: If you don’t have a clinical reason for doing it, it’s unethical.

  11. badrabbion 21 Apr 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Shame on the surgeon for missing the opportunity to demonstrate the power of hyponosis correctly. If I were the surgeon, I would have done the following:

    1. Performed a an examination prior to surgery to ascerain the pain threshold in the arm, relfexes, etc.

    2. Performed a Tox screen, both of urine and blood, to r/o the prior use of anesthesia and/or narcotics.

    3. Admitted the patient on the night before the surgery, and placed the patient under constant monitoring, checking for self medication.

    4. Recorded and released all medications given to the patient by the surgeon and the anesthesiologist.

    5. Recorded EMG’s of the arm and hand shortly before surgery

    6. Recorded the surgery for demonstration to the skeptical audience.

    This is a shame since the surgery was elective in nature, and the surgeon could have controlled for all the above factors. As is, this is a non-starter. As much as this is a boon to the hypnotist, it is a boondoggle to the surgeon. I would not have my dog operated by him!

  12. DevilsAdvocateon 21 Apr 2008 at 7:04 pm

    It may be a factor that the account comes to us not directly from the surgeon, but through journalists, of whom some have been known to edit according to their own needs for a given story.

    We need more info – perhaps Dr. Novella will be able to speak with the surgeon.

  13. Roy Nileson 21 Apr 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Mike Reeves-McMillan, somehow your post hadn’t shown up before I made my last. So if the surgeon is now saying the arm was numb, is he saying he believed that was due to self-hypnosis, or that there’s a possibility it was due to self- anesthetization? Or that he didn’t really care as long as it was numb?

    Is it possible to induce such a stage of numbness by self-hypnosis that it won’t wear off during an operation? I know something about the subject, having actually practiced it as an amateur magician, but that was years ago, and the techniques have clearly become more sophisticated – except perhaps it’s the magic part that has evolved the most.
    What are the possibilities that, if no-one has documented that sort of numbing ability before, that the hypnotist still lied to the surgeon, even if the surgeon himself is not fudging things a bit?
    As you may know, one of the things magicians do best is to persuade a chosen accomplice to go along with the trick.

  14. Mike Reeves-McMillanon 21 Apr 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I just watched the video again. The surgeon states that the operation was performed without anaesthetic (i.e. he is claiming that he did not use a local) and that he tested that the arm had no sensation before beginning. He doesn’t say (in the video, which has obviously been edited) what he believes the cause was, or refer to any tests to prevent faking.

    Note that I’m not attempting to argue that this hypnotist couldn’t have been faking, only that the idea that he wasn’t is more credible than you may think.

    You make a few assumptions, one being that nobody has documented such things before – have a look at the Mayo Clinic pdf I linked to before, there are plenty of references there.

    There’s much more research material on this at hypnosisandsuggestion.org, which remarks that pain is one of the best-researched areas relating to hypnosis.

    It certainly is unusual to have this level of analgesia, but the hypnotist has been practicing self-hypnosis for 45 years. He says himself on the video that it isn’t something that someone could just come in off the street and expect to do.

    Think of this as being dissociation, if you like – that’s what one neuroimaging study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17230052?dopt=AbstractPlus) used as its model. (I found that one through hypnosisandsuggestion.org, there are several others.)

    And try to separate the image of stage hypnosis from clinical uses of hypnosis – there’s a wide gulf in between.

  15. Roy Nileson 21 Apr 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Mike Reeves-McMillan, I didn’t assume nobody has documented that before – this article was assuming that, and I asked IF this was so, etc.
    And I’m assuming it’s possible it’s a hoax from the lack of information presented (and I can’t get that video clip on my Mac for some reason). I mentioned stage hypnosis because I know a bit about how it’s made to appear something that it’s not. And you admit yourself that this level of analgesia, and for an 80 minute operation of this type, is highly unusual.
    So regardless of what you assume I assume (or what I could assume you’d like to believe), the idea that the man wasn’t faking is no more credible than it ever was, as apparently nothing was done to preclude that possibility beforehand.
    But of course I’d like to know if such a level of self-hypnosis has really been reached, and that perhaps one man’s anecdotal evidence can be corroborated. Because ultimately I would want to know not just that it’s done, but how it’s done.
    To that end, I’m simply suggesting some additional questions that need to be asked, especially of the surgeon.

  16. Mike Reeves-McMillanon 21 Apr 2008 at 10:33 pm

    OK, sorry if I misunderstood.

  17. Harmless168on 21 Apr 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Interesting post. I recently watched a Discovery Channel show entitles “Human Body: Pushing the Limits” and in one of the episodes “Sensation” there was a segment about a guy going to a dentist who put him under hypnosis first before performing a root canal. They also claimed to use absolutely no anesthesia. I was really skeptical about it.

  18. j.ncon 21 Apr 2008 at 11:13 pm

    OK, if he’s so good, why doesn’t he just hypo-cure-his-ass to avoid the surgery altogether?

    OK, seriously now, a question I’d ask him: if he can control the pain of a SURGICAL procedure via hypnosis why can’t he just use similar hypnosis powers to control the arthritic pain in the first place and avoid the surgery altogether?

  19. Roy Nileson 22 Apr 2008 at 12:44 am

    Mike Reeves-McMillan,
    Thanks, and I have to concede that at least you identified your area of expertise that entitled you to a particular point of view.

    I failed to identify mine, which was that I’ve been an investigator of similar fraudulent activities for years and years, and I look for patterns which may mean little to others. Consequently I may unduly emphasize the importance of what I think is an emergent pattern.

  20. ellazimmon 22 Apr 2008 at 1:53 am

    I assume that the patient’s sensations of pulling, etc come from tissue and such further up the arm, perhaps above the wrist?

    Is it possible for self-hypnosis to be that specific?

    Is it possible for a local anaesthetic to be that specific?

    Is it possible for a topical anaesthetic to last long enough and reach deeply enough?

    What sort of anti-septic would be applied to the area before an incision was made?

    Also, how large of an incision are we talking about? The sawing and chipping of bones I’m assuming was done between joints with some kind of small grinder. What kind of pain receptors are there in those regions?

    My spouse says I ask too many questions, sorry.

  21. superdaveon 22 Apr 2008 at 9:34 am

    this is anecdotal,but I had hand sugery under a local anesthetic two years ago and what is described here certainly sounds like what I experienced.

    Also, the doctor pulled the pin out a few weeks later without anything, that hurt a lot for about 30 seconds, then was fine.

  22. Mike Reeves-McMillanon 22 Apr 2008 at 4:20 pm

    No problem, Roy.

    Ellazim, there’s a difference between anaesthesia (the absence of sensation) and analgesia (the absence of pain), and this is, strictly speaking, the latter. It is possible for hypnosis to provide analgesia without anaesthesia. The mechanism seems to be that particular brain regions which experience pain are inhibited.

    I’m not a doctor, so I can’t comment on most of the rest of your questions, but the picture included in the video shows the thumb opened up from just below the thumbnail back to beyond the base of the thumb. It’s a big incision. There are a lot of pain receptors in that area; it should hurt. The surgeon used a small saw and a chisel on the bone.

  23. [...] 3. NeuroLogica Blog discusses and interesting surgical procedure that was supposedly done with no anesthesia! “Mr. Lenkei, who is a professional hypnotist, “hypnotized” himself prior to having surgery on his right hand for osteoarthritis.” Truth or lie? Find out for yourself at the NeuroLogica Blog. [...]

  24. daedalus2uon 23 Apr 2008 at 8:57 am

    I think medical ethics may preclude the scenario that badrabbi suggests.

    This would qualify as “experimental” (as a deviation from the standard of care); all experimental procedures have to go through an IRB. One distinction between “experimental” and “therapeutic” is whether or not data is collected in a systematic way. It isn’t even clear that this “research” answers a sufficiently important scientific question that an IRB would be willing to approve it. Doing a one-of test like this is an “experiment”, but it doesn’t end up with data that can be generalized to other patients (unless those patients also happen to be hypnotists). Adding an IRB would add a lot of cost to the procedure.

    Filming it and doing all that pre-op stuff would also add a lot of cost that no insurance or health plan is going to pay for.

    The controlling document is the Declaration of Helsinki.

    http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm

    The surgeon may be able to give the patient surgical treatment under these conditions. I don’t think the surgeon could do an experimental protocol under these conditions. The duty of a researcher is slightly different than the duty of a treating physician. The researcher cannot cede to the research subject the responsibility for the medical well being of the research subject. See paragraph 15.

    Since the surgeon isn’t doing the hypnosis, who exactly is the “controlling medical authority” doing the experiment? I presume it is the anesthesiologist and not the surgeon. A treating physician can allow a patient to dictate what level of anesthesia they are willing to receive, but doing that in an experimental way everything needs to be spelled out in advance. The IRB may not be willing to cede control of the experimental protocol (that they are responsible for) back to the patient. The IRB may be giving up control, but still retaining complete liability if anything goes wrong. If the patient claimed to be in pain but refused anesthesia, then as a research subject he could sue for being subjected to pain, and if anesthesia is given he could sue as a patient for his refusal of anesthesia not being honored. I admit this may be a contrived and unlikely situation but the only way for the institution to protect itself is to not have it happen as an experiment in the first place.

    The scenario TDN mentions was very clearly not an “experiment”, it was something that entailed risk that was taken to mitigate other risks.

  25. bigjohn756on 23 Apr 2008 at 3:36 pm

    In the early ’60s my sister opted to deliver her first child using only hypnosis as anesthesia. It may even have been self-hypnosis I don’t remember for sure. Well, that lasted about five minutes before she was demanding normal anesthesia. Hee, hee, if she hadn’t been such a prig about it beforehand, I probably might have been a little sorry for her instead of laughing at her.

  26. pnosis.comon 24 Apr 2008 at 1:43 am

    Pnosis.com, an online general interest magazine (circulation around 1,000 visitors/ month, from 79 nations, ~10,000 pageviews) was interested in the Lenkei story and found this additional relevant 1996 news report, apparently about the same fellow:

    The Daily Telegraph-25th July 1996-pain control

    “A patient had a National Health Service hernia operation without anaesthetic, relying on hypnosis to withstand the pain. Alex Lenkei, 49, a Hypnotherapist, had a colleague hypnotise him for the 30-minute operation at Kingston Hospital, southwest London, and watched surgeons cut into his abdomen. “I was fully conscious throughout and felt fine,” he said. “The surgeon hit a nerve twice which made me feel an instant pain but nothing excruciating. My heart rate was steady throughout and there was not much bleeding.” An anaesthetist was on hand in case he changed his mind in mid-surgery. Mr Lenkei, from Surbiton, Surrey, had trained for the operation with 20-minute hypnosis sessions every day during which colleagues measured his sensitivity to pain by screwing clamps on to his arms to see if he could feel them. Senior registrar surgeon Tom Hennigan, who repaired the hernia, admitted that he had thought hypnosis was “a load of rubbish”. He said that in hernia operations where not enough local anaesthetic was supplied, patients complained of severe pain. “To have it done with no anaesthetic at all would be torture,” he added.”

    On August 18, 2007 Pnosis carried a feature article with an excerpt from the writings of one of the most rigorous of hypnotic researchers, Prof. Charles Tart:

    “For example, a British physician stationed in India, James Esdaile, discovered that hypnosis could be used to anesthetize many patients for surgery. Chemical anaesthesia had not been discovered yet. Ninety-five percent of patients who had surgery died from it, as well as suffering terribly. Esdaile reported that not only did his Indian patients feel no pain, but 95 percent survived the operation.

    “The British medical journals refused to publish his papers. When he returned to Britain, he put on a demonstration for his colleagues of the British College of Physicians and Surgeons. After hypnotizing a man with a gangrenous leg, he amputated it in front of them while the man lay there calmly smiling. The conclusion of his skeptical colleagues? Esdaile was fooling them. He had hired a hardened rogue for a gold piece to lie there and pretend he was feeling no pain.

    They must have had very hard rogues in those days.”

    (Tart, Awakening, pp. 79-80)

    The added fact about Lenkei and the observation of Tart on Esdaile about a much earlier generation of skeptics about the anaesthetic potential of hypnosis might offer a contribution to this conversation. Pnosis has an article in preparation on the use of hypnosis in conjunction with chemical anesthesia by the Drs. Mayo. (The Mayo Clinic site still contains some of the most reliable information on clinical hypnosis on the Web.)

    If further information is desired, search http://www.Pnosis.com‘s internal search engine, or write Us@Pnosis.com.

    Ralph Benko
    Editor
    Pnosis.com
    Washington, DC

  27. inspiroson 15 May 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Steve

    I’d like to know why you felt that my post which cited formal studies on hypnosis by the American Medical Association (1956), the British Medical Association (1955), the British Medical Journal (1999) and the British Psychological Society (2001) was not relevant (and was therefore removed) for this blog entry.

    Surely you would be interested to know that committees of these leading medical organisations ordered formal reviews on hypnosis – and that EACH of these reviews found evidence for hypnosis being effective for pain control (as well as many other issues too.)

    Once again I shall post the link to the British Psychological Society’s brief 21 page report on The Nature of Hypnosis:
    http://www.bps.org.uk/downloadfile.cfm?file_uuid=A7AF6617-1143-DFD0-7E14-10B42D589040&ext=pdf

    I quote from the study once again:
    “There is convincing evidence that hypnotic procedures are effective in the management and relief of both acute and chronic pain and in assisting in the alleviation of pain, discomfort and distress due to medical and dental procedures and childbirth. ”
    (BPS, 2001).

    What is most peculiar in your treatment of this topic is that the term hypnosis originated out of an attempt by scientists to explain the effects of Mesmerism and their “animal magnetism” – and to show that no mysterious energy was involved but merely a peculiar physiological state. Therefore “hypnosis” is perhaps the clearest weapon in armoury of those sceptical of new age treatments and therapies – since hypnosis offers a clear explanation of placebo response.

    Again I fail to understand why you would remove this information from your blog – and I would have you would have welcomed it, even if it does mean that your initial scepticism of hypnosis is misplaced.

  28. [...] instead of anesthesia. At face value, the reports are stunning. Mr. Lenkei, who is a professhttp://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=277Aesthetic Surgery Journal : Outpatient abdominoplasty under …Outpatient abdominoplasty with the [...]

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