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April 21, 2008

BehindTheMedspeak: The end of anesthesia?


So it would seem, if the remarkable events described below in an April 18, 2008 BBC News story can be reliably reproduced.

    Man hypnotises himself before op

    A hypnotist from West Sussex has undergone surgery on his right hand without a general anaesthetic.

    Alex Lenkei [above], 61, from Worthing, chose to sedate himself by hypnosis before undergoing the 83-minute operation.

    He said he was fully aware of everything going on around him during the procedure but was free from pain.

    The operation at Worthing Hospital involved removing some bone in the base of the thumb and fusing some joints in an attempt to improve his arthritis.

    Consultant orthopaedic surgeon David Llewellyn-Clark said he was happy in agreeing to the unusual sedation on Mr Lenkei, a registered hypnotist who has been practising since the age of 16.

    Mr Lenkei said Wednesday's surgery "went amazingly well".

    "It took between 30 seconds to a minute for me to place myself under hypnosis, and from that point I felt a very deep relaxation.

    "I was aware of everything around me, from people talking and at one stage a hammer and chisel was used as well as a surgical saw, but I felt no pain."

    Throughout the operation, an anaesthetist was on standby to administer an anaesthetic if necessary.

    Mr Llewellyn-Clark said he had been confident that Mr Lenkei was a skilled hypnotist and was "delighted all went well".


Want more?

No problema.

Here's BBC South Health correspondent David Fenton's more in-depth April 18, 2008 report on the case.

    Pain-free alternative to anaesthetics?

    "I'm glad I did it — it felt ace!"

    That's how a registered hypnotherapist described an operation on his thumb — without any anaesthetic.

    Surgeons cut, sawed and chiselled a bone out of the hand of Alex Lenkei.

    But the 61-year-old didn't feel a thing after putting himself into a trance ahead of the 80-minute operation at Worthing and Southlands Hospital is West Sussex.

    "It took about 30 seconds to a minute for me to put myself under," he said.

    "I was aware of what was going on around me, I could hear the surgeon talking but I couldn't feel any pain.

    "I remember at one point the surgeon asked for a saw, and I had images of this big thing like you get at B&Q — then he said, 'No not that one, the little one', and I thought oh, that's all right then."

    Mr Lenkei needed surgery to remove a bone about the size of a walnut from the base of his thumb.

    The surgeon, David Llewellyn-Clark, smashed the bone with a special chisel, then sawed the bone ends and cleared the debris with snippers.

    Throughout the operation consultant anaesthetist Dr Richard Venn was on hand to give pain relief — if it was needed.

    Both doctors said the process by which a body can shut out pain by hypnosis is not well understood.

    "Presumably what happened is that his own body released a lot of pain killing chemicals that prevented him feeling pain during the operation," said Dr Venn.

    "What was interesting was that I was monitoring his heart, blood pressure and breathing rate all the time and they stayed exactly the same throughout — so he certainly wasn't experiencing any pain."

    Dr Llewellyn-Clark believes there could be a place for hypnosis in NHS treatment.

    It was the first time he had operated on anyone under hypnosis.

    He added: "I think this is possibly the extreme case of what can be done with hypnosis; but some people are very anxious about being given an anaesthetic so I'm always looking to find alternatives."


[via Skipweasel]

April 21, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Not everyone can be hypnotized, so you're still in business, Dr. Stirt.

Posted by: Al Christensen | Apr 21, 2008 11:53:55 AM

I remember the wife's anaesthesia wearing off during a caesarean. She wasn't best pleased and not really in a suitable state of mind to just relax and let it wash over her! But for those that can, I guess it's ideal. I've had dental work where the anaesthesia hasn't worked too well, and you can do it - just let go and allow it to happen, as it were, to someone else.

I can't do it well with kidney stones, and I really have tried! I can keep it down for a few minutes, but then it wells up and I start the renal squirm.

Posted by: Skipweasel | Apr 21, 2008 10:38:19 AM

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