FPIN's Help Desk Answers
Hypnosis for Surgical Pain
Am Fam Physician. 2017 Dec 15;96(12):online.
How effective is hypnosis for surgical pain?
Hypnosis provides small to moderate improvements in surgical pain and burn debridement pain in adults. (Strength of Recommendation [SOR]: B, based on a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials [RCTs].) In children, the effects of hypnosis are mixed, but hypnosis decreases the pain of invasive procedures. (SOR: B, based on a systematic review of RCTs and a controlled trial with mixed results, and a meta-analysis of RCTs.)
A 2013 meta-analysis of 34 RCTs (N = 2,597) compared hypnosis with standard care for pain, emotional distress, medication use, and other outcomes in patients undergoing surgery.1 Trials with attention controls (i.e., patients in the control group received attention for the same length of time as the hypnosis group) were included, whereas studies with overlap interventions (e.g., behavioral therapy, guided imagery) were excluded. The median age of patients was 40 years, and 60% of participants were women. Surgeries included elective procedures (with general or local anesthesia) and burn debridement (no anesthesia). Hypnosis was performed by script, but the technique varied (face-to-face or recorded), as did the time hypnosis was performed within the surgical period (before, during, or after). Outcomes were rated by patients or observers using different scales, so effect size was calculated using Hedges' g. Hypnosis resulted in a small to medium positive effect on pain (effect size = 0.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.26 to 0.61) and emotional distress (effect size = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.69). The numbers of trials and patients pooled for each outcome were not reported. Sensitivity analysis showed decreased effect size in the more methodologically rigorous studies.
A 2009 systematic review of 12 small RCTs and one controlled trial (N = 528) compared the effect of hypnosis or a hypnosis-like intervention with a control or alternative intervention in patients
1. Tefikow S, Barth J, Maichrowitz S, Beelmann A, Strauss B, Rosendahl J. Efficacy of hypnosis in adults undergoing surgery or medical procedures: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013;33(5):623–636.
2. Accardi MC, Milling LS. The effectiveness of hypnosis for reducing procedure-related pain in children and adolescents: a comprehensive methodological review. J Behav Med. 2009;32(4):328–339.
3. Uman LS, Chambers CT, McGrath PJ, Kisely S. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials examining psychological interventions for needle-related procedural pain and distress in children and adolescents: an abbreviated Cochrane review. J Pediatr Psychol. 2008;33(8):842–854.
Help Desk Answers provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review. The strength of recommendations and the level of evidence for individual studies are rated using criteria developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (http://www.cebm.net).
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