Surgery under hypnosis (without anaesthetics) – a breakthrough in Malaysia?

Surgery under hypnosis (without anaesthetics) will be the highlight of the Inaugural Malaysian Conference on Clinical Hypnosis (IMCHH) 2015. A video record of Carpal-Tunnel Release Surgery (Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome) will be presented by Dr Alan Soh, President of the Malaysian Society & Clinical Hypnosis (MSCH). The conference which will be graced by the Honourable Minister of Health Malaysia, YB Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam, features a specialist in hypnosurgery from London, Dr Rumi Peynovska, as the keynote speaker.

The application of hypnosis in medicine to alter pain perception for purposes of pain control and surgery dates back centuries. The documented use of hypnosis in surgery can be traced to the 1830s when prominent French surgeon, Dr Jules Cloquet performed numerous breast operations with hypnosis as the only anaesthetic. One of the early best known hypno-anaesthetist was Scottish surgeon, Dr James Esdaile, who operated on nearly 300 patients using only hypnosis between 1845 to 1851 in India.

Back then, chemical anaesthesia such as ether and chloroform had yet to be discovered, so it made sense to turn to other modalities such as hypnosis to alter pain perception. With the advent of modern anaesthesia, hypnosis then became unpopular as a pain control tool as drugs could induce rapid and deep anaesthesia.

Today, hypnosis is making a comeback as an adjunct to modern anaesthesia. At the University Hospital of Liége in Belgium, a team of anaesthetists led by Dr Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville has logged thousands of surgeries by hypno-sedation, a technique Faymonville developed that replaces general anaesthesia with hypnosis, local anaesthesia and a mild sedative.

In the US, Dr David Spiegel, Associate Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford University, hypnotises patients with Parkinson’s disease during implantations of deep-brain electrodes – a procedure that requires patients to remain conscious and calm.

In Malaysia, clinical hypnotherapists trained by the LCCH and working under the ethical guidelines of the MSCH, in conjunction with the Hand and Microsurgery Unit of the Orthopaedic Department in the University Malaya Medical Centre are currently conducting research in combining hypnosis with hand surgery. Patients have been operated upon successfully using only the power of hypnotic suggestion without any chemical anaesthesia.

Numerous brain scan studies such as PET scans and f-MRIs have demonstrated that, under hypnosis, the parts of the brain involved in pain perception show decreased activity. This proves that hypnosis is more than just a placebo effect as demonstrable alterations in physiological functions have been recorded in the research.

Hypnotised patients are taught relaxation techniques. After being counted down into a deep trance, they are typically instructed to imagine being in their favourite place of relaxation. In trance, awareness is directed inwards – to their imagined world.

Patients focus on taking a leisurely walk in the most beautiful garden, for example, and thereby, no longer pay attention to the surgical procedure that is going on. This process is known as dissociation and is a naturally occurring ability inherent in all human beings.

As patients begin to take more responsibility for their own well being and ask for integrative therapies, medical and allied health professionals will need to respond with knowledge and experience in areas such as clinical hypnotherapy.

It is therefore timely and appropriate that the IMCCH is showcasing hypno-surgery as part of Healing through Mind, Body and Spirit, which is the title of the conference.

Medical and allied health professionals have a unique opportunity to take the lead in this area of therapy that is moving from adjunct to mainstream medical practice. The corporate sector has much to gain from investigating what clinical hypnotherapy has to offer in addressing lifestyle challenges of the modern executive.

To register and for more information, visit or call 03 – 7960 6439 / 6449 or 011 – 2662 4623.