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The effect of hypnosis on pain and peripheral blood flow in sickle-cell disease: a pilot study

Authors Bhatt RR, Martin SR, Evans S, Lung K, Coates TD, Zeltzer LK, Tsao JC

Received 7 January 2017

Accepted for publication 20 April 2017

Published 14 July 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1635—1644


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon

Ravi R Bhatt,1 Sarah R Martin,1 Subhadra Evans,2 Kirsten Lung,1 Thomas D Coates,3,4 Lonnie K Zeltzer,1 Jennie C Tsao1

1UCLA Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care Program, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia; 3Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 4Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Vaso-occlusive pain crises (VOCs) are the “hallmark” of sickle-cell disease (SCD) and can lead to sympathetic nervous system dysfunction. Increased sympathetic nervous system activation during VOCs and/or pain can result in vasoconstriction, which may increase the risk for subsequent VOCs and pain. Hypnosis is a neuromodulatory intervention that may attenuate vascular and pain responsiveness. Due to the lack of laboratory-controlled pain studies in patients with SCD and healthy controls, the specific effects of hypnosis on acute pain-associated vascular responses are unknown. The current study assessed the effects of hypnosis on peripheral blood flow, pain threshold, tolerance, and intensity in adults with and without SCD.
Subjects and methods: Fourteen patients with SCD and 14 healthy controls were included. Participants underwent three laboratory pain tasks before and during a 30-minute hypnosis session. Peripheral blood flow, pain threshold, tolerance, and intensity before and during hypnosis were examined.
Results: A single 30-minute hypnosis session decreased pain intensity by a moderate amount in patients with SCD. Pain threshold and tolerance increased following hypnosis in the control group, but not in patients with SCD. Patients with SCD exhibited lower baseline peripheral blood flow and a greater increase in blood flow following hypnosis than controls.
Conclusion: Given that peripheral vasoconstriction plays a role in the development of VOC, current findings provide support for further laboratory and clinical investigations of the effects of cognitive–behavioral neuromodulatory interventions on pain responses and peripheral vascular flow in patients with SCD. Current results suggest that hypnosis may increase peripheral vasodilation during both the anticipation and experience of pain in patients with SCD. These findings indicate a need for further examination of the effects of hypnosis on pain and vascular responses utilizing a randomized controlled trial design. Further evidence may help determine unique effects of hypnosis and potential benefits of integrating cognitive–behavioral neuromodulatory interventions into SCD treatment.

Keywords: sickle-cell disease, pain, hypnosis, blood

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