Anaesthetists are increasingly turning to hypnosis and other relaxation techniques to help those who have a fear of needles.
Needle phobias affect as many as one in 10 people, causing significant anxiety for patients.
It also causes significant challenges for treating doctors.
To combat the challenge a small but growing number of anaesthetists have started to use hypnosis and relaxation techniques, said Dr James Griffiths, a consultant anaesthetist at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital.
"We're finding that guided relaxation can facilitate induction of anaesthesia and it's important that we use positive language to avoid inadvertently increasing pain or anxiety in our patients," said Dr Griffiths.
It works by influencing a patients' experiences by carefully choosing the words spoken by the anaesthetist and helps to avoid reliance on sedation.
"Patients who are needle phobic often receive sedation in the form of an anaesthetic gas before the needle goes in. Sometimes this is entirely appropriate," said Dr Griffiths.
"However, if we do this unquestioningly, it may serve to reinforce to the patient that they can't tolerate having needles. It may represent a missed opportunity to help the patients learn techniques to address and cope with their fears," he said.
Dr Griffiths also encourages trainee anaesthetists and theatre staff at the Royal Women's Hospital to use calming and positive language with patients to avoid anxiety and stress.
For example, instead of saying "here comes the big sharp needle, this will sting" phrases such as "here's the anaesthetic and it will make the skin numb and make you feel more comfortable" can help reduce anxiety and discomfort associated with procedures.
Dr Griffiths was invited to talk about the topic at the ANZCA annual scientific meeting in Sydney from May 7-11.