Can Hypnotism Help TMD Patients During Surgical Procedures?

Having a surgical procedure is stressful for anyone, but when you have temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, surgical procedures can be extra problematic, especially when your jaw won’t open wide enough to accommodate a breathing tube. But a clinical trial at the Houston-based Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center hopes to change that.

The trial hopes to determine if a state of hypnosis called hypnosedation will work for breast cancer patients undergoing lumpectomies with stage 0/1 breast cancer. Researchers, under the guidance of program director Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D, hope to follow 50 randomly selected patients by offering either general anesthesia or hypnosedation and local anesthesia combined. If successful, the findings could be a big deal for patients who want minimal anesthesia – and for patients suffering from temporomandibular joint disorders.

“The prospect of having a breathing tube during surgery can be very upsetting to some TMD sufferers,” says Wexford, Pennsylvania, dentist Dr. Alexandra George. George specializes in the treatment of TMDs and has received special training in neuromuscular dentistry, a field of dentistry that deals specifically with TMDs.

The study in Houston is actually using hypnosedation not to help TMD sufferers but to minimize the effects of general anesthesia on patients’ immune systems.

“Studies have shown that using general anesthesia can hamper recovery efforts,” says George. “It can weaken the immune system, which especially with cancer patients can be very dangerous.” But hypnodsedation could change that, leaving the immune system intact, allowing the patient to leave the procedure refreshed and eliminating some of the recovery downtime that is typical with general anesthesia.

“The hope is with this study we’ll see if hypnosedation can help patients not just relax, but keep their bodies strong while they’re undergoing treatment,” says George. “And if it happens to also lessen the instance of upsetting their TMD symptoms when they go in for a surgical procedure, well, that’s even better.”

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