An hypnotic suggestion: review of hypnosis for clinical emergency care

J Emerg Med. 2014 Apr;46(4):588-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.09.024. Epub 2014 Jan 25.


Background: Hypnosis has been used in medicine for nearly 250 years. Yet, emergency clinicians rarely use it in emergency departments or prehospital settings.

Objective: This review describes hypnosis, its historical use in medicine, several neurophysiologic studies of the procedure, its uses and potential uses in emergency care, and a simple technique for inducing hypnosis. It also discusses reasons why the technique has not been widely adopted, and suggests methods of increasing its use in emergency care, including some potential research areas.

Discussion: A limited number of clinical studies and case reports suggest that hypnosis may be effective in a wide variety of conditions applicable to emergency medical care. These include providing analgesia for existing pain (e.g., fractures, burns, and lacerations), providing analgesia and sedation for painful procedures (e.g., needle sticks, laceration repair, and fracture and joint reductions), reducing acute anxiety, increasing children's cooperation for procedures, facilitating the diagnosis and treatment of acute psychiatric conditions, and providing analgesia and anxiolysis for obstetric/gynecologic problems.

Conclusions: Although it is safe, fast, and cost-effective, emergency clinicians rarely use hypnosis. This is due, in part, to the myths surrounding hypnosis and its association with alternative-complementary medicine. Genuine barriers to its increased clinical use include a lack of assured effectiveness and a lack of training and training requirements. Based on the results of further research, hypnosis could become a powerful and safe nonpharmacologic addition to the emergency clinician's armamentarium, with the potential to enhance patient care in emergency medicine, prehospital care, and remote medical settings.

Keywords: emergency medicine; hypnosis; nonpharmacological therapy; pain relief; prehospital care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis* / methods
  • Hypnosis, Anesthetic
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Compliance