We know so little about the human abilities that some simple truths can confound even a scientist. The placebo effect is one of those phenomena that still puzzle modern science. Can a dummy pill together with a person’s faith really work miracles? What about placebo surgery?
The amazing power of placebo has been repeatedly confirmed in various studies. Pain, depression, and certain neurological diseases are particularly amenable to treatment with dummy pills. But what if the power of one’s faith is enough even for the effect of “fake” surgeries?
What about the power of faith to get rid of the need for surgery on a damaged vertebra? It is about vertebroplasty. This type of intervention is used when a patient suffers from severe pain as a result of a compression fracture of the vertebral body.
Then with the help of special equipment, medical cement is introduced into the vertebral body, which helps return to its former shape and strengthens the vertebra from the inside, forming its structure.
How the placebo effect can be associated with the surgery?
A new BBC documentary tells about the healing power of the mind. Dr. David Kallmes has specialized in vertebroplasty surgery in the Mayo Clinic for the last 15 years and is a leading surgeon in this area. He believes that the placebo surgery is as effective as the real one.
He first thought about it when he pointed out that the quality of the surgery is not always associated with the effect. Sometimes, even after not a very successful surgery, patients feel fine.
Of course, Kallmes does not argue that the placebo effect can replace the resection of the tumor. However, doctors are beginning to realize that the placebo has certain effectiveness, even in surgery.
Kallmes decided to conduct an experiment to prove whether vertebroplasty is more effective than the placebo. Some of the patients underwent vertebroplasty, and some were subjected to a simulation without realizing that.
The choice of the subjects was made with the help of a random computer selection. It was a well-played performance: preparation, local anesthesia, the surgeon’s puncture, and words. Even the smell of medical cement was present in both cases.
Placebo surgery reduced pain
Some patients had serious enough disorders of the spine. However, eventually, it turned out that vertebroplasty had no statistically significant differences compared with the placebo surgery. Of course, the patients’ bones did not recover, but the pain was gone. The function was recovered equally.
It was a shocking revelation because more than one million surgeries of this kind have already been performed all over the world. At the same time, patients who underwent vertebroplasty or placebo surgery felt better than before surgery or simulation.
It is difficult to talk about the ethical side of placebo surgery. Nevertheless, it is yet another bright example of the uncovered potential of the human mind.
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