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The hypnotist who snubbed an anaesthetic and sent himself into trance for painful bone-cutting surgery
By VANESSA ALLEN the mail online
Last updated at 23:41 18 April 2008
A hypnotherapist had an 83-minute operation on his arm with no anaesthetic.
At one point, Alex Lenkei even heard the surgeon say: “Can I have the saw, please?”
Because he had put himself into a hypnotic trance, however, he said he felt no pain as the doctors chiselled out a walnut- sized chunk of bone from his wrist.
Mr Lenkei, 61, had the operation to treat his painful osteoarthritis. He said: “The results have been amazing. I feel ace.”
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Trance: Alex Lenkei could hear doctors chiselling his bones
The hypnotherapist amazed doctors by asking how things were going halfway through the surgery, at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex on Wednesday.
He said he could hear his surgeon talking as he made a four-inch-long cut into his right wrist and chiselled the bone to move a tendon.
The married father-of-one, who lives in the town, said: “It took me about 30 seconds to put myself under and I wasn’t aware of any part of my body apart from my arm.
“I could feel the surgeon pulling and manipulating me – then I heard the cracking of bones.
“I heard him say, ‘Can I have the saw please?’ and imagined him holding this great big thing in his hand. But fortunately he then said ‘I think we’ll use the smaller one.'”
“He used a hammer and chisel at one stage and I could hear him hammering away at the bone.
“I heard everything he was saying to his assistants and anaesthetist, but there was no gossip. It was a shame – I was hoping to hear something juicy.”
Surgeon David Llewellyn-Clark said the operation went well and Mr Lenkei showed no reaction during the surgery.
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He added: “If he had been grinning and bearing it we would have known – but his heart rate and breathing remained constant throughout.
“I wasn’t aware he could hear us but halfway through he asked how things were going.”
Mr Lenkei, who is a registered hypnotherapist, has been practising the technique since he was 16. In 1996 he was hypnotised by a colleague before a 30-minute hernia operation.
He was the one who asked to undergo the latest surgery without anaesthetic.
He said he had felt nothing, adding: “I would have certainly told them if I was in pain – I told them to zap me straight away if I cried out.”
Anaesthetist Richard Venn said the surgery would usually be carried out under general anaesthetic.
He added: “Conducting surgical operations under hypnosis has been done before, particularly in Africa, but we are very reluctant to use it over here. You have to have medical proof and research done.”
Studies have suggested that using hypnosis instead of anaesthetic can reduce recovery time after surgery.
But the technique’s associations with stage hypnotism have kept it at the margins of medicine.
Hypnoanaesthesia, where the patient enters a deep trance state and is told they will not feel pain, has been used to ease fears over surgery and childbirth, and to help burn victims manage their pain.
Dr Leon Gevertz, of the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis, said that heart operations had been carried out under hypnosis.
Studies found that the practice relaxes the patient and can alter the perception of pain or increase the pain threshold.
However, it works only on those susceptible to the technique.
Mr Lenkei has taught students at the Royal College of Nursing how to induce hypnoanaesthesia and said he would consider undergoing further operations without anaesthetic.
Contact: Linda Alexander Glasgow 0141 632 1440 / 07875 493 358