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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2016 Apr 29;113(17):289-96. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2016.0289.

The Efficacy, Safety and Applications of Medical Hypnosis.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, Klinikum Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken and Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Münich, Department of Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Münich, Dental Practice Schmierer & Kratzenstein, Stuttgart, Department of Anesthesiology, Universitätsklinikum Regensburg.



The efficacy and safety of hypnotic techniques in somatic medicine, known as medical hypnosis, have not been supported to date by adequate scientific evidence.


We systematically reviewed meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of medical hypnosis. Relevant publications (January 2005 to June 2015) were sought in the Cochrane databases CDSR and DARE, and in PubMed. Meta-analyses involving at least 400 patients were included in the present analysis. Their methodological quality was assessed with AMSTAR (A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews). An additional search was carried out in the CENTRAL and PubMed databases for RCTs of waking suggestion (therapeutic suggestion without formal trance induction) in somatic medicine.


Out of the 391 publications retrieved, five were reports of metaanalyses that met our inclusion criteria. One of these meta-analyses was of high methodological quality; three were of moderate quality, and one was of poor quality. Hypnosis was superior to controls with respect to the reduction of pain and emotional stress during medical interventions (34 RCTs, 2597 patients) as well as the reduction of irritable bowel symptoms (8 RCTs, 464 patients). Two meta-analyses revealed no differences between hypnosis and control treatment with respect to the side effects and safety of treatment. The effect size of hypnosis on emotional stress during medical interventions was low in one meta-analysis, moderate in one, and high in one. The effect size on pain during medical interventions was low. Five RCTs indicated that waking suggestion is effective in medical procedures.


Medical hypnosis is a safe and effective complementary technique for use in medical procedures and in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Waking suggestions can be a component of effective doctor-patient communication in routine clinical situations.

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