Surgeons have completed the world’s first deep brain surgery using hypnosis instead of an anaesthetic to control the patient’s pain.
Doctors carried out the deep brain stimulation procedure to cure the 73-year-old patient’s severe trembling hands.
In the procedure, the brain regions which are responsible for the tremor were electrically stimulated, causing the tremor to be effectively suppressed so the patient can for example eat and write again undisturbed. As fine electrodes are implanted directly deep into the brain, they are often referred to as “brain pacemakers”.
The 73-year-old patient from Thuringia, Germany, whose tremor did not adequately improve with medication, is reportedly very satisfied with the result of the six-hour operation by the team from the University Hospital of Jena.
Normally, such medical interventions are done with anaesthesia. But the sedative effect of anaesthesia “can lead to distorted results” said Dr Rupert Reichart, head of the neurosurgery department. He said: “Under hypnosis there are no such side-effects of anaesthesia. “This is an enormous advantage to check whether the activation of the electrodes is successful.”
During the surgery a team of anaesthetists was on standby. The clinic is one of the few centres in Germany offering deep brain stimulation, conducting about twelve such operations per year.
Dr Reichart provided the required speech hypnosis during the procedure and kept the patient in hypnosis during the entire operation, while colleague Dr Walter carried out the actual procedure.
Another doctor, Tino Prell, monitored the success of the procedure during the operation and after awakening the patient, who was not named in reports, from hypnosis. Dr Prell said: “This procedure allows a so-far unprecedented check on the effect of the deep brain stimulation and thus a clearly better and targeted electrode installation than in the usual procedures under narcosis.”
Dr Reichart emphasised that the hypnosis “has nothing to do with esotericism or tricks of pendulum-swinging TV magicians.” He said: “Of course, such a method cannot be used with all patients. “But patients who do not tolerate anaesthesia, for example, can benefit from it – if they are hypnotic.”
Dr Reichart acquired the necessary expertise in medical hypnosis at the Medical University of Vienna. He is one of the few neurosurgeons in Germany with this additional qualification.