HealthDay News — Some reassuring words from a doctor just before an operation begins may be more effective than drugs in easing patient anxiety, according to research presented at the Anesthesiology 2015 meeting.

The study was led by Emmanuel Boselli, MD, PhD, a physician anesthesiologist at Edouard Herriot Hospital in Lyons, France. His team examined the use of what’s known as “conversational hypnosis.” This method involves the doctor talking quietly and positively to the patient — saying things such as “Keep calm and quiet,” rather than “Please don’t move” — and focusing the patient’s attention on something other than anesthesia and surgery preparations.

In research involving 100 patients undergoing hand surgery, this approach was compared to the use of hydroxyzine. Fifty of the patients received conversational hypnosis while being given regional anesthesia, whereas the other 50 were given hydroxyzine 30 minutes to an hour before receiving anesthesia. Patient relaxation was assessed using the Analgesia/Nociception Index (ANI), a 100-point index that is based on heart rate variability, and the comfort scale, both prior to and after receiving hypnosis or medication and anesthesia. A higher ANI score indicates higher anxiety.

The patients who received conversational hypnosis were calmer and had lower anxiety levels than those who took the medication, the researchers found. Patients measured an average ANI of 51 before and 78 after hypnosis, whereas those who had medication averaged 63 before and 70 after. The average comfort scale of those who had received hypnosis was 6.7 before and 9.3 after, while patients who had medication averaged 7.8 before and 8.3 after.

“Conversational hypnosis can be used prior to surgery in conscious patients having local or regional anesthesia,” Boselli said in an American Society of Anesthesiologists news release. “It also could be beneficial before general anesthesia to decrease patient anxiety.”


  1. Boselli E, Musellec H, Bernard F et al. Abstract #A4066. Assessment of the Objective Effect Using Analgesia/Nociception Index (ANI) and Subjective Effect Using a Self-Reported Comfort Scale of Conversational Hypnosis During Axillary Blocks in Adults: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Presented at: Anesthesiology 2015; October 24-28, 2015; San Diego.