This study assessed the efficacy of hypnotherapy in treating functional dyspepsia (FD). A total of 126 patients were randomized to either a hypnotherapy condition, a supportive therapy plus placebo medication condition, or a medical treatment condition, for a total of 16 weeks of treatment.

The percentage of change in symptoms from baseline was assessed after the 16-week treatment phase (short-term) and again after 56 weeks (long-term), with the 26 hypnotherapy, 24 supportive therapy, and 29 medical treatment patients who completed all phases of the study. In addition, quality of life was also measured as a secondary outcome.

Investigators found that short-term symptom scores improved more in the hypnotherapy group (median, 59%) than in the supportive group (41%; P = 0.01) or in the medical treatment group (33%; P = 0.057). Hypnotherapy also benefited quality of life more, (42%) when compared with either supportive therapy (10% [P < 0.001]) or medical treatment (11% [P < 0.001]).

In addition, in the long-term, after the 56 week interval, it was found that hypnotherapy even more significantly improved symptoms (73%), as compared with supportive therapy (34% [P < 0.02]) or medical treatment (43% [P < 0.01]). Also, quality of life improved significantly more with hypnosis (44%) than with medical treatment (20% [P < 0.001]). There were similar improvements in quality of life found in the supportive therapy group, (43%) but it should be noted that 5 of these patients commenced taking antidepressants during follow-up.

Another finding of note: a total of 90% of the patients in the medical treatment group and 82% of the patients in the supportive therapy group commenced medication during follow-up, whereas none in the hypnotherapy group did so (P < 0.001). Further, patients in the hypnosis group visited their general practitioner or gastroenterologist significantly less (median, 1) than did those in the supportive therapy (median, 4) and medical treatment (median, 4) groups during follow-up (P < 0.001).

The study concludes that hypnotherapy is highly effective in the long-term management of functional dyspepsia. Furthermore, the dramatic reduction in medication use and consultation rate provide major economic advantages.

Citation: Calvert EL, Houghton LA, Cooper P, Morris J, Whorwell PJ. Long-term improvement in functional dyspepsia using hypnotherapy. Gastroenterology, 2002. Dec; 123 (6): pp. 1778-85.