hypnosis has existed for hundreds of years, today it is still difficult
to clearly judge its usefulness in the medical domain. In a report
submitted to the French Directorate General for Health, researchers
from Inserm led by Bruno Falissard, assessed the effectiveness of
this complementary medical practice for some of its indications (women’s
health, digestive ailments, surgery, psychiatry, etc.). The latter
illustrates its therapeutic value during anaesthesia, and in the management
of irritable bowel syndrome. It also confirms that risks associated
with hypnosis are particularly limited.
Hypnosis is neither a state of alertness nor a state of sleep, but
rather a state of altered consciousness. At biological level, the
effects of hypnosis have been confirmed by modern imaging techniques.
The latter have demonstrated changes in the activity of certain regions
of the brain when suggestions are made to a subject under hypnosis.
Several types of hypnosis can be distinguished, according to their
medical application: hypnoanalgesia, used as a method of analgesia,
hypnosedation, which combines hypnosis with anaesthetic agents, and
finally hypnotherapy, for psychotherapeutic purposes.
In France, the practice of hypnosis is highly variable. The term “hypnotherapist”
is not protected, and hypnosis training is provided by both universities
(qualifications not recognised by the French Order of Physicians)
and private associations or organisations. Some of these training
programmes are limited to health professionals, whereas others are
open to a wider public.
Given this varied landscape, the study conducted by Bruno Falissard
and Juliette Gueguen, Caroline Barry and Christine Hassler (Inserm
Unit 1018, “Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population
Health [CESP]”) attempted to assess the effectiveness of this
complementary therapy in the treatment of several conditions. With
this objective, the researchers analysed the results of 52 clinical
trials, and results of 17 trials involving the use of EMDR.
Hypnosis is of therapeutic value in irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterised by abdominal pain, feelings
of bloating, and episodes of diarrhoea or constipation, and alters
the quality of life of those affected. Studies testing hypnosis to
treat this condition confirm its potential: regular hypnotherapy sessions
alleviate the gastrointestinal symptoms.
Hypnosis reduces use of analgesics and sedatives
The scientists focused on the practice of hypnosedation during surgical
examinations and interventional radiology: wisdom tooth extractions,
breast biopsies, transcatheter procedures, pregnancy terminations,
etc. The criteria chosen were highly variable, and concerned the patient
(pain intensity, anxiety, drug use, adverse side-effects) and the
procedure itself (duration, cost) in equal measures. Although the
studies do not allow a definite ruling on the majority of these criteria,
the results are in agreement with respect to the use of analgesic
or sedative drugs. During an operation carried out under local or
general anaesthetic, the action of sedatives is complemented by the
administration of analgesics to control the pain. The studies show
that, with the help of hypnosis, the use of these drugs is reduced
during these interventions.
Bruno Falissard’s team also examined the safety of hypnosis
as reported in the literature. Reassuringly, no serious adverse effects
seem to be attributable to hypnosis. According to the researchers,
one cannot, however, exclude the existence of such adverse events,
but if they exist, their incidence is relatively low.
Although this analysis demonstrates the genuine interest of practitioners
in hypnosis and related techniques, it also emphasises the need to
reconsider the traditional methodological standards. It also highlights
the need to question the choice of control groups and judgement criteria,
as well as the actual design of studies.. ¦
embody magazine WINTER 2015 | www.ctha.com