A randomized clinical trial of a brief hypnosis intervention to control side effects in breast surgery patients

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 Sep 5;99(17):1304-12
Montgomery GH, Bovbjerg DH, Schnur JB, David D, Goldfarb A, Weltz CR, Schechter C, Graff-Zivin J, Tatrow K, Price DD, Silverstein JH.
Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Box 1130, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA.



Breast cancer surgery is associated with side effects, including postsurgical pain, nausea, and fatigue. We carried out a randomized clinical trial to test the hypotheses that a brief presurgery hypnosis intervention would decrease intraoperative anesthesia and analgesic use and side effects associated with breast cancer surgery and that it would be cost effective.


We randomly assigned 200 patients who were scheduled to undergo excisional breast biopsy or lumpectomy (mean age 48.5 years) to a 15-minute presurgery hypnosis session conducted by a psychologist or nondirective empathic listening (attention control). Patients were not blinded to group assignment. Intraoperative anesthesia use (i.e., of the analgesics lidocaine and fentanyl and the sedatives propofol and midazolam) was assessed. Patient-reported pain and other side effects as measured on a visual analog scale (0-100) were assessed at discharge, as was use of analgesics in the recovery room. Institutional costs and time in the operating room were assessed via chart review.


Patients in the hypnosis group required less propofol (means = 64.01 versus 96.64 microg; difference = 32.63; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.95 to 61.30) and lidocaine (means = 24.23 versus 31.09 mL; difference = 6.86; 95% CI = 3.05 to 10.68) than patients in the control group. Patients in the hypnosis group also reported less pain intensity (means = 22.43 versus 47.83; difference = 25.40; 95% CI = 17.56 to 33.25), pain unpleasantness (means = 21.19 versus 39.05; difference = 17.86; 95% CI = 9.92 to 25.80), nausea (means = 6.57 versus 25.49; difference = 18.92; 95% CI = 12.98 to 24.87), fatigue (means = 29.47 versus 54.20; difference = 24.73; 95% CI = 16.64 to 32.83), discomfort (means = 23.01 versus 43.20; difference = 20.19; 95% CI = 12.36 to 28.02), and emotional upset (means = 8.67 versus 33.46; difference = 24.79; 95% CI = 18.56 to 31.03). No statistically significant differences were seen in the use of fentanyl, midazolam, or recovery room analgesics. Institutional costs for surgical breast cancer procedures were $8561 per patient at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Patients in the hypnosis group cost the institution $772.71 less per patient than those in the control group (95% CI = 75.10 to 1469.89), mainly due to reduced surgical time.


Hypnosis was superior to attention control regarding propofol and lidocaine use; pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset at discharge; and institutional cost. Overall, the present data support the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients.