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Doctors should be taught to hypnotise patients not to feel pain instead of using general anaesthetics during some operations, the Royal Society of Medicine will be told today. In what he has described as a "clarion call to the British medical profession", Professor David Spiegel, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University in the US, will also call on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) to add hypnotherapy to its list of approved therapeutic techniques for the treatment of conditions ranging from allergies and high blood pressure to the pain associated with bone marrow transplantation, cancer treatment, and anaesthesia for liver biopsy.
Anesthesia awareness, or "unintended intra-operative awareness" occurs during general anesthesia, on the operating table, when a patient has not had enough general anesthetic or analgesic to prevent consciousness or waking up during surgery.
The most traumatic case of anesthesia awareness is full consciousness during surgery with pain and explicit recall of intraoperative events. In less severe cases, patients may have only poor recollection of conversations, events, pain, pressure or of difficulty in breathing.
The experiences of patients with anesthesia awareness vary widely, and patient responses and sequelae vary widely as well. This experience may be extremely traumatic for the patient or not at all.
Because the medical staff may not know if a person is unconscious or not, it has been suggested that the staff maintain the professional conduct that would be appropriate for a conscious patient.