Can medical hypnosis accelerate post-surgical wound healing? Results of a clinical trial

Am J Clin Hypn. 2003 Apr;45(4):333-51. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2003.10403546.


Although medical hypnosis has a long history of myriad functional applications (pain reduction, procedural preparation etc.), it has been little tested for site-specific effects on physical healing per se. In this randomized controlled trial, we compared the relative efficacy of an adjunctive hypnotic intervention, supportive attention, and usual care only on early post-surgical wound healing. Eighteen healthy women presenting consecutively for medically recommended reduction mammaplasty at an ambulatory surgery practice underwent the same surgical protocol and postoperative care following preoperative randomization (n = 6 each) to one of the three treatment conditions: usual care, 8 adjunctive supportive attention sessions, or 8 adjunctive hypnosis sessions targeting accelerated wound healing. The primary outcome data of interest were objective, observational measures of incision healing made at 1,7 weeks postoperatively by medical staff blind to the participants' group assignments. Data included clinical exams and digitized photographs that were scored using a wound assessment inventory (WAI). Secondary outcome measures included the participants' subjectively rated pain, perceived incision healing (VAS Scales), and baseline and post-surgical functional health status (SF-36). Analysis of variance showed the hypnosis group's objectively observed wound healing to be significantly greater than the other two groups', p < .001, through 7 postoperative weeks; standard care controls showed the smallest degree of healing. In addition, at both the 1 and 7 week post-surgical observation intervals, one-way analyses showed the hypnosis group to be significantly more healed than the usual care controls, p < 0.02. The mean scores of the subjective assessments of postoperative pain, incision healing and functional recovery trended similarly. Results of this preliminary trial indicate that use of a targeted hypnotic intervention can accelerate postoperative wound healing and suggest that further tests of using hypnosis to augment physical healing are warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Mammaplasty / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical
  • Pain Measurement
  • Postoperative Care / psychology*
  • Suggestion
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing / physiology*