Saturday, 24 March 2007

More on warts

A study on warts by D M Ewin raises further questions. Hypnotherapy for warts (verruca vulgaris): 41 consecutive cases with 33 cures, Am J Clin Hypn. 1992 Jul;35(1):1-10. Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA.
Published, controlled studies of the use of hypnosis to cure warts are confined to using direct suggestion in hypnosis (DSIH), with cure rates of 27% to 55%. Prepubertal children respond to DSIH almost without exception, but adults often do not. Clinically, many adults who fail to respond to DSIH will heal with individual hypnoanalytic techniques that cannot be tested against controls. By using hypnoanalysis on those who failed to respond to DSIH, 33 of 41 (80%) consecutive patients were cured, two were lost to follow-up, and six did not respond to treatment. Self-hypnosis was not used. Several illustrative cases are presented.
What distinguishes prepubertal children from adults?

Perhaps the biggest question, however, is why a little more of the billions spent on medical research isn't devoted to the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. Tests of the phenomenon itself go back decades. Just to give one covered by Medline, a database of medical papers which begins in the mid-1950s, and discussed in our book: A H Sinclair-Gieben and D Chalmers, Evaluation of treatment of warts by hypnosis, Lancet, 1959 Oct 3;2:480-2.
The study actually involved 14 patients with multiple warts. Under hypnosis it was suggested to the patients that the side of their body the worse for warts would be cleared. Five were excluded as not adequately hypnotised since they failed the post-hypnotic suggestion that they would open the door when the clinician blew his nose; no change in their wart load was observed. The other nine patients were assessed over the next 5 -13 weeks. On the relevant side only, seven were totally cured and two, apart from one large fading wart, virtually cured: the other (control) side was unchanged in eight patients and cured in only one. If immune system activation alone was responsible for the warts regressing, it's difficult to explain the selective nature of the observed response.
This description of the paper, anecdotes, and physiological hypotheses come from a fascinating entry in this edition of Canberra Skeptics Argos. See section 6, Charming warts − not just hocus-pocus?

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