Tag Archives: surgery

Listening to music before and after surgery relieves pain and anxiety

Patients undergoing surgery should be allowed to listen to music before, after and during their operations because it is so effective at relieving pain, researchers have suggested.

A new study by Brunel University and Queen Mary University of London found that people who were allowed to relax to their favourite tunes saw their pain levels drop by two points on a scale of one to 10 while they needed less medication to feel comfortable.

The study of 7,000 surgical patients also found music made them less anxious and more likely to feel satisfied by the procedure.

Surprisingly, even listening to music while under general anaesthetic reduced patients’ levels of pain, although the effects were larger when patients were conscious.

“Around 4.6 million in England each year and music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery,” said lead author Dr Catherine Meads from Brunel University

“Patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximise the benefit to their wellbeing. However, care needs to be taken that music does not interfere with the medical team’s communication.”

The study follows a recent research that found patients are being put at risk by surgeons who listen to music while operating.

An analysis of 20 operations by Imperial College London found that nurses struggle to hear what equipment was being asked for while anaesthetists mistook the beat of the music for patient’s pulse rate.

However, for patients themselves, it appears that music can have a major impact, and could save the NHS millions in pain relieving drugs.

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Paul Glasziou from Bond University, Queensland, Australia says, “Music is a simple and cheap intervention, which reduces transient discomforts for many patients undergoing surgery.

“A drug with similar effects might generate substantial marketing…The very high heterogeneity…of effects among trials in the accompanying study highlights a research opportunity—to identify how to maximise the effect.”

The research was published in The Lancet.

Source The Telegraph

Some patients ‘wake up’ during surgery

More than 300 people a year in the UK and Ireland report they have been conscious during surgery – despite being given general anaesthesia.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists suggests this happens in one in every 19,000 operations.

They found episodes were more likely when women were given general anaesthesia for Caesarean sections or patients were given certain drugs.

Experts say though rare, much more needs to be done to prevent such cases.

‘Unable to move’

Led by the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, researchers studied three million operations over a period of one year.

More than 300 people reported they had experienced some level of awareness during surgery.

Most episodes were short-lived and occurred before surgery started or after operations were completed. But some 41% of cases resulted in long-term psychological harm.

Patients described a variety of experiences – from panic and pain to choking – though not all episodes caused concern.

The most alarming were feelings of paralysis and being unable to communicate, the researchers say.

One patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, described her experiences of routine orthodontic surgery at the age of 12.

She said: “I could hear voices around me and I realised with horror that I had woken up in the middle of the operation but couldn’t move a muscle.

“While they fiddled, I frantically tried to decide whether I was about to die.”

‘Rare but concerning’

She told researchers that for 15 years after her operation she had had nightmares of monsters leaping out to paralyse her.

And it was only after she made the connection between this and her operation that the nightmares stopped.

Each person’s experience was analysed to identify factors that could make these situations more likely.

About 90% occurred when muscle-relaxant drugs – used to help paralyse muscles during surgery – were administered in combination with other drugs that normally dampen consciousness.

Researchers believe in some of these cases patients received an inappropriate balance of medication, leaving them paralysed but still aware.

And there were several reports of awareness from women who had Caesarean sections while under general anaesthesia.

Though this type of anaesthesia is most often used in emergency situations, researchers say women should be informed of the risks.

Drug errors

They calculate up to one in 670 people who have Caesarean sections with general anaesthesia could experience some levels of awareness.

But experts argue this is partly due to the balance needed when achieving unconsciousness for the woman while still keeping the baby awake.

Other common factors include lung and heart operations and surgery on patients who are obese.

And some 17 cases were due to drug errors.

Researchers are calling for a checklist to be used at the start of operations and a nationwide approach to managing patients who have these experiences.

Prof Tim Cook, at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, who led the research, said: “For the vast majority it should be reassuring that patients report awareness so infrequently.

“However for a small number of patients this can be a highly distressing experience.

“I hope this report will ensure anaesthetists pay even greater attention to preventing episodes of awareness.” 

Source BBC News

Obesity surgery could be offered to a million more people on NHS

Up to a million more people should be offered weight-loss surgery on the NHS, according to controversial new guidance to tackle Britain’s diabetes time bomb.

Draft guidance by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says increasing numbers of people should be considered for gastric bands and stomach stapling, amid spiralling levels of obesity.

At present weight loss surgery is given to patients on the NHS to those who are morbidly obese with a body mass index (BMI) score of over 40 or to those with a BMI over 35 if they have another condition, such as type 2 diabetes.

Now the rationing body has suggested that anyone with a BMI of 30 – the threshold between overweight and obese – should be considered for the surgery if they have been diagnosed with diabetes in the last decade.

One in four Britons is now classed as obese, with 3 million people suffering from diabetes, which is closely linked to weight gain.

Experts said the changes mean the number of people who qualify for “bariatric” surgery – which costs the NHS around £6,000 per operation – would double to 2 million.

Last night critics said the NHS should not be funding operations for those who had allowed themselves to get fat, when Nice has rejected a succession of life-extending cancer drugs.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “We’ve got a mismatch between what Nice recommended and what the country can afford. Clearly there are going to be thousands of people who will look at this and say – I fit that criteria, I want the surgery.”

He said the NHS could simply not afford the upfront costs of providing surgery for all who qualify to be assessed.

“We could end up with a situation where clinical commissioning groups say we can’t get the extra midwives we need for the local hospital, we can’t pay for life-saving drugs for people with cancer – because other people have been given the right to have expensive bariatric surgery.”

Simon O’Neill, from the charity Diabetes UK, said: “For most people, losing weight can be very difficult. For some, as well as a healthy diet and physical activity, additional treatments include medication and surgery.

“Although studies have shown that bariatric surgery can help with weight loss and have a positive effect on blood glucose levels, it must be remembered that any surgery carries serious risks. Bariatric surgery should only be considered as a last resort if serious attempts to lose weight have been unsuccessful and if the person is obese.”

Obesity and type two diabetes are very closed linked.

The Nice guidance suggests that around 60 per cent of morbidly obese diabetics – those with a BMI of 40 and over – could put the condition in remission by having their stomach stapled.

The NHS costs of weight-loss surgery ranges from £6,000 for stomach stapling, also known as a gastric bypass, to £2,500 for gastric banding.

Research suggests the costs of health care problems caused by obesity means the typical cost of an operation is repaid in savings to the NHS within three years, resulting in saved costs of around £4,000 a year per patient in the long-term.

Bariatric surgery covers a range of procedures including gastric bands and gastric bypasses – also known as stomach stapling, in which the digestive system is re-routed past most of the stomach.

Under Nice’s current guidance, around one million people qualify to be considered for such procedures – although in practice only around 9,000 such operations happen every year, with decisions on funding made by local NHS organisations.

Diabetes UK estimates that the new criteria mean between 850,000 and 900,000 extra people could qualify to be considered for surgery.

As well as meaning diabetics with a BMI of at least 30 could be eligible, the recommendations say those from an Asian background should be considered even if they are not obese, because of evidence that body fat carries higher risks of diabetes in such populations.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice, said: “Obesity rates have nearly doubled over the last 10 years and continue to rise, making obesity and overweight a major issue for the health service in the UK. Updated evidence suggests people who are obese and have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may benefit from weight loss surgery.

“More than half of people who undergo surgery have more control over their diabetes following surgery and are less likely to have diabetes related illness; in some cases surgery can even reverse the diagnosis,” he said.

Roger Goss, from Patient Concern, said: “NICE doesn’t seem to know the NHS is heading for a deficit. They are wasting our money. Obese people should be encouraged to eat less and take more exercise – rather than having this expensive treatment paid for.”

How to calculate your BMI

Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated by multiplying height in metres by itself, then dividing weight in kilograms by that sum.

It means a man who is 5 foot 9 inches and 12 stone multiplies his height in metres (1.75 x 1.75 = 3.06) then dividing that figure by his weight in kilos (76.2).

Or calculators are available online:

http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx

Under this definition, an average man of 5 foot 9 inches with an inactive lifestyle is classed as obese if his weight reaches 14 stone 8.

Under the same definition, an average woman of 5 foot 5 inches becomes obese if her weight reaches 13 stone.

BMI is used by most health professionals to assess a healthy weight – with a recommended weight falling between 18.5 and 25.

However, some concerns have been raised that it inaccurately categorises those with a lot of muscle as overweight, and some health professionals believe that waist measurements are a better guide to a healthy body shape.

Obesity through the decades


1950s

The average UK woman weighs 8 and a half stone, with a waist size of 27.5 inches, while the average man weighs just over 10 stone.

1960s

Health officials begin to record levels of obesity, classing 1 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women in this category.

1970s

Around 2.7 per cent of men and women are classed as obese, while the proportion of overweight men has risen from 13 per cent to 23 per cent in a decade.

1980s

Around 8 per cent per cent of men and women are obese, while 38 per cent of men are overweight, and 19 per cent of women.

1990s

Around 20 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men are obese

2000

Around 21 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women are obese

Latest figures (2012)

More than one quarter of women (25.1 per cent) and almost one quarter of men (24.4 per cent) are obese. In addition, 32 per cent of women are overweight, as are more than 40 per cent of men. One in ten children are obese by the time they start primary school and one in five is by the time they finish.

The future

Forecasts say 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children will be obese by 2050, on current trends

Source The Telegraph

NHS surgery ‘age discrimination’

Age discrimination may be preventing older people from having access to vital surgery, a report suggests.

The Royal College of Surgeons and Age UK looked at surgery rates for six common procedures for English over-65s.

It found a wide variation in access to treatment depending on where people lived and a “worrying” difference between the over 65s and over 75s.

NHS England said it was committed to “ensuring older patients had equal access to treatment”.

‘Important questions’

The report said there could be valid reasons for this – the patient opting not to have treatment for example – but said the NHS needed to investigate the findings.

Data was examined for the removal of breast and colorectal tissue (carried out in cancer care), removal of the gall bladder, hernia repairs, hip replacements and knee replacements in 2011-2012.

People with breast cancer who were aged over 65 faced the biggest variation depending on where they live – with a 37-fold difference in the rate of breast tissue removal.

In terms of the difference between age groups, there was a 34% drop in gall bladder operations and a 16.5% drop in breast tissue removal between the over 65s and over 75s. This came despite the fact the need for the treatment increases with age.

RCS president Prof Norman Williams said the analysis raised “important questions”.

“Every patient must be treated as an individual.”

Access to treatment

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, added: “The extent of variation suggests many places could be doing better.”

Mia Rosenblatt, of Breast Cancer Campaign said patients with breast cancer faced the biggest variation in access to surgery depending on where they live.

“While many different factors might impact on breast surgery rates, with a third of all breast cancers occurring in women over 70, it is essential that older breast cancer patients have access to the treatments that will benefit them the most. “

Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for people with long-term conditions, said: “NHS England is committed to ensuring older patients have equal access to treatment which should always be based on what is right for each individual patient, on their informed preferences, not their age.”

Source BBC News

Men ‘feel more pain after major ops’

Men feel more pain than women while recovering from major surgery, a study suggests.
More than 10,000 patients were monitored after operations, including heart or abdominal surgery, at a hospital in Germany.
Interviews with male and female patients, presented at the Euroanaesthesia conference, showed the men were reporting more pain.
Experts said gender differences in pain were still a disputed issue.
Hormones may play a role – the male sex hormone testosterone can reduce pain and women’s pain thresholds are altered by the menstrual cycle.
Cultural and psychological factors are also thought to be involved.
Ouch
The data from more than four years of surgeries involving 10,200 patients was collected at University Hospitals of the Ruhr University of Bochum in Germany.
The analysis showed there was no overall difference between the two genders’ level of pain after an operation.
However, when the researchers divided the operations into major surgery and minor treatments, such as a biopsy, a pattern did emerge.
The male patients felt more pain after major surgery, while women were more likely to report pain after smaller procedures.
Dr Andreas Sandner-Kiesling, from the Medical University of Graz in Austria, said: “The influence of gender is a key issue in medicine.
“The gender differences on pain perception are still heavily disputed, both in experimental and clinical fields.
“Our data do not definitely clarify this issue, however, based on our findings it can be presumed that the type and severity of surgery may play a pivotal role, as females express higher pain scores after minor procedures, whereas males are more affected after major surgery.”
Dr Beverly Collett, a consultant in pain management and anaesthesia at the University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “The study titillates and makes you want to ask more questions, but doesn’t allow you to probe it.
“Which procedures were classed as major surgery? How old were they? That will have an effect on sex hormones. And pain will be dependent on the parts of the body being biopsied.”
She said women would report pain when heat was applied to the skin before men did, but that differences in pain perception were smaller than animal tests would suggest.
She said there was also a psychological component to pain, and men were known to “increase their ability to resist pain” when treated by young attractive female nurses compared with unattractive old male ones.
Meanwhile entrenched social values from childhood – boys told to get up after a fall, while girls were kissed better – also affected pain perception, she said.
“There’s been a lot of dispute about pain in men and women, and this study does not clarify the issue.”
‘Hugely variable’

Dr Edmund Keogh, a pain researcher at the University of Bath, commented: “There might be a difference between how men and women respond to analgesics, we don’t know yet, we need to have lots more research.”
He added that the overall picture on gender differences in pain was unclear: “The results are fairly inconsistent – some studies find differences, some don’t and there’s a lot of variability between them.
“Pain is hugely variable, but generally women are reporting more pain in comparison to men.”
Dr Roman Cregg, from the University College London centre for anaesthesia, said: “Females are at increased risk for developing chronic pain conditions, they are more sensitive to painful stimuli in the laboratory settings compared with male subjects as well.
“According to the authors, overall, there was no difference between males and females in relation to the reported pain intensity, this is contrary to the majority of previously published experimental material.
“Ultimately the matter is complex.”
Article was taken from BBC Online

NHS waiting lists are at highest for 6 years with 2.8m waiting for surgery or other hospital procedures

The number of patients on NHS waiting lists is at its highest for nearly six years.
There are now 2.89million waiting for surgery or other hospital procedures, including nearly 550 who have been waiting for more than a year.
Official figures also show that, for the first time since March 2011, the NHS has missed a crucial target that patients should be treated within 18 weeks.
The health service is meant to ensure that at least 90 per cent of patients are treated within this time but the figure fell to 89.9 per cent in February, meaning that around 400 waited longer.
Labour warned that the NHS was heading back to the ‘bad old days’ when hundreds of thousands of patients, often in agony, waited up to two years for treatment.
The rise is further evidence of the growing pressures on the health service, which is struggling to meet the demands of the increasingly aging population. 
Several experts have warned that it will have to make controversial changes, such as charging patients for routine treatment, to avoid bankruptcy.
A patient’s right to be treated within 18 weeks is set out in the NHS Constitution, the health service’s rule book. 
If they are made to wait longer, they can demand to go privately – paid for by the NHS – although very few patients are aware of their rights.
Labour’s health spokesman, Andrew Gwynne, said: ‘Under David Cameron, waiting lists for operations are at their longest in years. He wasted £3billion on a damaging reorganisation and patients are paying the price.
‘Labour left NHS waiting times at a record low but on David Cameron’s watch the NHS is heading back to the bad old days with patients waiting months on end for treatment in pain and discomfort.’
The figures from NHS England show that the average patient waits 9.5 weeks after being referred by their GP, up from eight weeks in April 2010, just before the Coalition Government took office.
However, patients needing trauma or orthopaedic procedures – those involving muscles and bones – wait an average of 12.6 weeks, while those needing surgery to their mouth or teeth wait 12.7 weeks
The NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, said: ‘We need to acknowledge that the whole system is under more pressure than ever. The NHS needs to change.’
Dr Barbara Hakin, chief operating officer at NHS England said: ‘The NHS does face a challenge on the 18-week standard but staff are working incredibly hard to ensure patients are seen quickly. 
‘During February, around 270,000 patients were admitted for treatment within the standard, and around 400 waited longer than we would have liked. 
‘We are doing more operations and treating more people than ever – over a million people start treatment with a consultant each month.
‘We are determined to redouble our efforts so that we do meet the standard.
‘But this may take several months as it is imperative we focus on those who have waited longest.’
Source Mail Online

The remarkable power of the placebo: Patients who had FAKE surgery for a broken back recovered just as well, documentary reveals

We’ve all heard of placebos. They’re dummy pills. They can’t do anything real. After all, there’s nothing in them.

At least, that’s what we thought.

But in recent years, evidence has built up to suggest that placebos can be highly effective – particularly in treating pain, depression, and even alleviating some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Powerful: there is mounting evidence to suggest that placebos can be highly effective - particularly in treating pain, depression, and even alleviating some of the symptoms of parkinson's disease

Powerful: There is mounting evidence to suggest that placebos can be highly effective – particularly in treating pain, depression, and even alleviating some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

And it isn’t just dummy pills that seem to be able to work: you could get life-changing improvements from a pretend potion that’s actually just water; or perhaps fake acupuncture with needles that don’t even puncture your skin.

The key is simply that you think it might help you.

But when it comes to placebos, it doesn’t get much more dramatic than what’s been called sham surgery – as Dr David Kallmes discovered a few years ago.
 
He’s a successful radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s leading hospitals – it’s where the Presidents of the United States often get treated.

For the past 15 years, he’s been fixing broken backs by injecting them with a special kind of medical cement.

Dr Kallmes regularly performed the procedure – called vertebroplasty – and found it hugely effective.

‘We saw terrific results from the procedure, really amazing results,’ he told me.

However, there were some questions as to exactly what was going on – because some people seemed to get better even when the operations went horribly wrong.

Remarkable: doctors have now discovered that even fake surgery can be effective. surgeons began to realise this when patients got better even after surgery had gone wrong

Remarkable: Doctors have now discovered that even fake surgery can be effective. Surgeons began to realise this when patients got better even after surgery had gone wrong

We’ve all heard of those calamitous procedures where someone has the wrong leg amputated. Well occasionally, people in need of vertebroplasty had the wrong vertebra filled with cement.

And yet it still worked.

As Dr Kallmes rather delicately puts it: ‘There was some reason to suspect that there were numerous factors at play in the apparent effectiveness of the cement’.

THE OTHER POWERS OF PLACEBO

Fake verteroplasty isn’t the only surgical procedure that’s been found to be no more effective than a placebo.

A well-reviewed Finnish study recently found that one of the world’s most common orthopaedic operations – arthroscopic partial meniscectomy of the knee – is no more effective than ‘sham surgery’.

Surprising though this is, there’s certainly no suggestion that the benefits of many other surgeries might be entirely due to the placebo effect. No one would argue that a pretend operation could remove a tumour, for instance.

But doctors and scientists are starting to become more aware of the power of the placebo effect – particularly in surgery, where our hopes and expectations of a dramatic recovery are at their highest.

He decided to do something very unusual – something that most doctors would be incredibly nervous about, but something that a good scientist can’t resist: he decided to conduct an experiment to see whether vertebroplasty was any more effective than a placebo.

He designed a trial in which some patients would be given genuine vertebroplasty, and some would be given a placebo.

But in this case the placebo couldn’t be a dummy pill, it would have to be a fake operation.

It was important that the 130 patients on the trial didn’t know whether they were having the real thing or the placebo.

This meant that Dr Kallmes had to develop an elaborate ruse to ensure that patients wouldn’t work out which group they were in.

All patients were prepared for their ‘operation’ in the same way; they were wheeled into theatre, and given a local anaesthetic in their back.

It was only at that stage that it was decided whether or not they’d have the placebo or the vertebroplasty, and it was a computer that randomly decided their future.

Even the doctors didn’t yet know whether they were about to perform a real procedure, or whether they’d just be pretending.

‘In both cases,’ says Kallmes, ‘No matter how they were randomised [i.e. which operation they were having, the real or the fake], we then opened the cement, which has a very strong odour like nail polish remover, to really simulate it for everybody in the room.’

Half the patients then received the real operation; the other half experienced theatre, but not of the operating kind.

Dr Kallmes explains: ‘If they were randomised to placebo, we had a script that we followed, we pressed on the back and said okay ma’am, the cement is going in now, everything’s going fine, things are going well, a few more minutes here, okay we’re all done.’

It almost sounds like a child’s game of doctors and nurses.

Test: dr kallmes set up a revolutionary trial to test if fake operations could also heal damaged vertebra in the back. he found that patients who believed they'd been treated - but actually hadn't - recovered as well as those who really did have the op

Test: Dr Kallmes set up a revolutionary trial to test if fake operations could also heal damaged vertebra in the back. He found that patients who believed they’d been treated – but actually hadn’t – recovered as well as those who really did have the op

For Bonnie Anderson, one of the patients on the trial, it would have seemed impossible that play-acting could give her the relief she needed.

After slipping in her kitchen, she’d cracked a vertebra and was in immense pain, barely able to move. ‘I couldn’t stand up straight, I’d have to hold onto something. The pain was just very, very severe,’ she said.

What’s more, Bonnie had actually had a real vertebroplasty the year before, when a different vertebra had fractured. She knew what to expect from the procedure. It wouldn’t be easy to fool her.

And yet for Bonnie, the effectiveness of the placebo – though she didn’t know that’s what it was – was clear. ‘Within a week….I was able to play golf, I took it a little easy, but I was able to play golf almost every day.’

At 76 years old, as she was at the time of the trial, a game of golf every day suggests a fairly effective operation…

In fact, Bonnie noticed no difference in pain relief between the real thing, and the placebo.

And she wasn’t the only one for whom the pretend procedure was so effective.

As Dr Kallmes sums up: ‘There was no statistically significant difference in degree of pain relief between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo.

‘And more importantly, there was no statistically significant difference in improvement in function between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo.’

To be clear, there’s no suggestion that the pretend operation was healing people’s broken bones.

‘We found there was no statistically significant difference in degree of pain relief between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo.

‘And more importantly, there was no statistically significant difference in improvement in function between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo’ said Dr David Kallmes, Mayo Clinic

The assumption is that it worked because it relieved patients of their pain long enough for the bone to then heal naturally.

Nonetheless, the results shocked the medical community – after all, doctors around the world had performed vertebrplasties on over a million people.

Coincidentally, at the same time as Dr Kallmes was doing his trial in the U.S., another scientist was doing a similar study in Australia. Once again, vertebroplasty failed to do better than a placebo.

Normally, if a pill or a procedure doesn’t beat a placebo, we’d assume that it doesn’t work – after all, it’s no better than a dummy pill, or a pretend procedure.

The difficulty here is that it wasn’t the case that neither vertebroplasty nor the placebo worked; rather, they both worked.

Patients who experienced vertebroplasty or the placebo both got better than if they’d had no treatment.

As Kallmes says, ‘the drastic diminution in pain at 24 hours in our study suggests that the procedures had immediate benefit.

‘We published the three-day outcomes, which also show marked decrease in pain.’ That steep drop wouldn’t be expected if the patients had just been left to heal naturally.

The fact that a pretend procedure is considerably more useful than doing nothing at all has led to an interesting situation for Dr Kallmes and his colleagues: insurance companies are now reluctant to pay for the cost of a vertebroplasty – a few thousand dollars is a lot of money for a medical procedure that’s no more effective than something an actor could do.

And yet whether its effects are due to the cement or to the placebo effect, Dr Kallmes knows that vertebroplasty is still useful.

The fact is, there aren’t really any other options: he can’t perform the pretend procedures outside of the trial as it would be immoral to lie to patients and trick them about the treatment they’re receiving.

As Dr Kallmes acknowledges, ‘We don’t have much else to offer these patients.’

And so even though he found it to be no more use than a pretend procedure, Dr Kallmes, is still performing vertebroplasties.

Amazingly, it isn’t the only surgical procedure that’s been found to be no more effective than a placebo.

A well-reviewed Finnish study recently found that one of the world’s most common orthopaedic operations – arthroscopic partial meniscectomy of the knee – is no more effective than ‘sham surgery’.

Surprising though this is, there’s certainly no suggestion that the benefits of many other surgeries might be entirely due to the placebo effect. No one would argue that a pretend operation could remove a tumour, for instance.

But doctors and scientists are starting to become more aware of the power of the placebo effect – particularly in surgery, where our hopes and expectations of a dramatic recovery are at their highest.

There’s no doubt that there’s still an enormous amount we don’t know about placebos and how they work. Why do some people respond so well, and others not at all? Do our genes play a role?

What are the exact mechanisms through which placebos work?

But at least now, instead of seeing a placebo effect as a statistical tool to develop new drugs and treatments, scientists are starting to investigate how placebos work.

And the more we find out, the better our chance of harnessing their power, and making the most of our bodies’ abilities to heal themselves.

Olly Bootle is the Producer and Director of Horizon: The Power Of The Placebo, which will be shown on BBC2 at 9pm on Monday 17th February.

Source Mail Online