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The thyroid is a small gland at the bottom of the neck and makes hormones to control the body’s metabolism. It is sometimes removed when it becomes enlarged, overactive or cancerous. The surgery can be done either with local or general anesthesia and is considered low-risk.

Place said waking up from the surgery was more abrupt than she’d expected. “It was like I was really in the mountains and then ‘poof,’ it was over,” Place said, laughing.

Other experts caution that hypnosis would be impossible in major operations involving the heart or other internal organs because the pain would be unbearable.

“If hypnosis doesn’t work and you’ve got somebody’s abdomen or chest open, then you’re in big trouble,” said George Lewith, a professor of health research at Southampton University. “You need to be able to switch to another option immediately,” he said.

Consistency is also an issue. “It’s not used routinely because it’s not effective in everyone and it takes a while,” said Dr. Mark Warner, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He said doctors would need extra time to conduct hypnosis and would need to work more closely with surgeons.

Warner said there are no guidelines on its surgical use in the U.S. He often uses music therapy or asks patients to picture a soothing scene to distract them from any discomfort. “If we could get more research on the right patient groups that would benefit from (hypnosis), that would be wonderful,” he said.

Some experts said hypnosis is a hard sell because no one really profits from it.

“The problem is the money doesn’t really go into anyone’s hands, and the only person who really benefits from it is the patient,” said Guy Montgomery, an associate professor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who led a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2007.

In that research, Montgomery and colleagues randomly assigned 200 patients in the U.S. having a breast biopsy or lumpectomy to either get hypnosis or a brief session with a psychologist beforehand. They found hypnotized patients needed fewer painkillers and sedatives and required less time in surgery. On average, each hypnotized patient cost the hospital about $770 less than those who weren’t hypnotized.

Marquis recommends hypnosis to patients who want to avoid anesthesia, but warned it isn’t for everyone.

“You have to be in the right mental frame of mind for this, be properly prepared and trust the medical staff to take care of you,” she said. “If you’re very skeptical of hypnosis and freaked out about whether it’s going to work, it probably won’t.”