HealthDay News — For patients undergoing surgery, therapeutic suggestions played through earphones during general anesthesia can reduce postoperative pain and opioid use, according to a study published online Dec. 10 in The BMJ.

Hartmuth Nowak, M.D., from University Hospital Knappschaftskrankenhaus in Bochum, Germany, and colleagues conducted a blinded randomized controlled study in five tertiary care hospitals in Germany involving patients recruited from January to December 2018 who were to undergo surgery under general anesthesia. A total of 191 patients were included in the intervention group, which was assigned to an audiotape of background music and positive suggestions based on hypnotherapeutic principles that was played repeatedly through earphones during general anesthesia; 194 patients were included in the control group and were assigned a blank tape.

The researchers found that the intervention group required a significantly lower opioid dose within 24 hours after surgery compared with the control group, with a median of 4.0 mg morphine equivalents versus 5.3 mg morphine equivalents and an effect size of 0.36. In the intervention group, the number of patients who needed opioids postoperatively was reduced (63 percent versus 80 percent in the control group). Within 24 hours after surgery, pain scores were consistently and significantly lower in the intervention group, with an average decrease of 25 percent.

“This trial is very much the beginning of an important line of inquiry that may change future practice,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial.


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