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How the Mind Affects Surgery

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How the Mind Affects Surgery

By David Servan-Shreiber, Ode Magazine

Surgery, the glory of Western medicine, is ultimately technological. Perfect sterility must preside; every move is calculated, codified and monitored by machines as efficient as they are relentless. Nevertheless, the achievements of the last 50 years—from microsurgery of the hand to heart transplants and hip replacements—have changed the patient into a passive object of scientific inquiry and the surgeon’s dexterity. Once patients have agreed to an operation, how can they conceive of themselves as active participants, especially when they experience surgery under general anesthesia?

Although that question seems absurd to the majority of surgeons—and patients—a revolution is underway. Scientific studies are beginning to show what some observers have long suspected: The patient’s attitude and mental preparation play a major role in the way the body responds to that “well-intentioned aggression” we call surgery.

Although we don’t yet know why this is so, it has now been demonstrated that explanations about the nature of the operation and about what the patient should expect reduce blood loss and complications during and after operations. Instruction in relaxation and training in hypnosis to condition the body’s response during the operation contribute to this effect, also reducing post-operative pain and even the length of hospital stays.

The most surprising impact of all has come from the hypnotic suggestions whispered via headphones to patients under anesthesia. A study has demonstrated that several days after an operation, nurses were able to identify 80 percent of the patients who had received this intervention—because they recovered more quickly and experienced less pain than those who had not.

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Read more: General Health, Health

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Megan, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

25 comments

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5:08AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

We can help ourselves

10:30PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Yes. mind over matter. So mind need proper orientation and training

9:08PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Wonderful. I'm going to print this for a young friend who is going in for her third back surgery! Thank you so much.

12:35AM PST on Jan 7, 2012

Thanks for the article.

4:09AM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Thank you for this story, Megan. :-)

7:20PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

How the mind affects everything... !

11:49AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

People undergoing surgery need all he help they can get - whether it is approved by Western medicine or not. Acupuncture works for some as an anaesthetic for dental surgery.

3:33AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

This is exactly what Aldous Huxley described in his novel "The Island"...

1:30PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

To quote Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or can't, you're right".
There is a part of our mind that runs our whole body in automatic mode - we don't need to think about beating our hearts. Would it be a surprise to learn that the same part of our mind can enable better, faster healing? Sure, you can wait for science to measure it and figure out how it works, but in the meantime, I'd rather use it any way.
People were taking advantage of the heat of the Sun before they could explain the complicated thermonuclear reactions that make it hot...

10:47AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

i believe it's true that attitude and mental preparation play a mjor role in successful surgery.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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