Surgeries With Hypnosis

Elliotson’s protégé, the Scottish physician James Esdaile (1808-1859), had more freedom to practice as a medical officer in the British East India Company, especially if he was operating on Indians rather than Englishmen. In 1846, Elliotson published his observations in a book entitled Mesmerism in India, and its Practical Application in Surgery and Medicine (Esdaile, 1846/1977). Included among his many successful cases were one amputation each of an arm and a breast, two amputations of penises, three cataracts removed, five cases of removing enlarged toenails by their roots, seven operations for fluid buildup in various body cavities, and the removal of fourteen scrotal tumors, ranging from 8 to 80 pounds in weight. At a time when surgical mortality was about 40%, Esdaile reported a rate of about 5% — a reduction that he attributed to successful relief of pain with mesmerism.


 The Calm Before The Surgical Storm

There’s a Cleveland story at the heart of this piece in The New York Times about the increasing use of hypnosis to help patients gain control over their illnesses.

The lead anecdote comes from Kirsten Ritchie, 44, who’s described as an insurance marketing representative in Cleveland and who nearly 20 years ago had four tumors removed from her brain. (Ms. Ritchie told the paper that the operation and its aftermath were “horrific.”)

The news that she needed brain surgery again was, understandably, difficult.

“Determined to make her second operation a better — or at least less traumatic — experience, Ms. Ritchie … turned to an unusual treatment,” The Times reports. “At the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, she had four hypnosis sessions in the month before her procedure, during which she addressed her fear of the coming surgery. She also practiced self-hypnosis every day.”

Eventually, she tells the newspaper, “I got to a place where I felt a sense of trust instead of fear.” 

In February, doctors removed a plum-size tumor from her brain. Ms. Ritchie tells The Times that she woke up from the procedure feeling “alert and awesome.” She also attributes a speedy recovery and calm state to her hypnosis sessions.

The Times says hypnosis “is now available to patients at some of the most respected medical institutions in the country,” including the Clinic, Stanford Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.