Stress reducing strategies are useful in patients undergoing surgery. Hypnosis is also known to alleviate acute and chronic pain. We therefore compared the effectiveness of these two psychological approaches for reducing perioperative discomfort during conscious sedation for plastic surgery. Sixty patients scheduled for elective plastic surgery under local anesthesia and intravenous sedation (midazolam and alfentanil upon request) were included in the study after providing informed consent. They were randomly allocated to either stress reducing strategies (control: CONT) or hypnosis (HYP) during the entire surgical procedure. Both techniques were performed by the same anesthesiologist (MEF). Patient behavior was noted during surgery by a psychologist, the patient noted anxiety, pain, perceived control before, during and after surgery, and postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). Patient satisfaction and surgical conditions were also recorded. Peri- and postoperative anxiety and pain were significantly lower in the HYP group. This reduction in anxiety and pain were achieved despite a significant reduction in intraoperative requirements for midazolam and alfentanil in the HYP group (alfentanil: 8.7 +/- 0.9 microg kg(-1)/h(-1) vs. 19.4 +/- 2 microg kg(-1)/h(-1), P < 0.001; midazolam: 0.04 +/- 0.003 mg kg(-1)/h(-1) vs. 0.09 +/- 0.01 mg kg(-1)/h(-1), P < 0.001). Patients in the HYP group reported an impression of more intraoperative control than those in the CONT group (P < 0.01). PONV were significantly reduced in the HYP group (6.5% vs. 30.8%, P < 0.001). Surgical conditions were better in the HYP group. Less signs of patient discomfort and pain were observed by the psychologist in the HYP group (P < 0.001). Vital signs were significantly more stable in the HYP group. Patient satisfaction score was significantly higher in the HYP group (P < 0.004). This study suggests that hypnosis provides better perioperative pain and anxiety relief, allows for significant reductions in alfentanil and midazolam requirements, and improves patient satisfaction and surgical conditions as compared with conventional stress reducing strategies support in patients receiving conscious sedation for plastic surgery.