8 June 2022

The hip way to ease your replacement

The Back Page

Waking up and smelling the lavender could cut patient anxiety by half.


Can things that smell nice work as painkillers? 

According to preliminary findings of a new study so far available only in press release, donning a lavender and peppermint aromatherapy patch halves post-op opioid use in hip replacement patients who were anxious before going under the knife. 

But if the word “aromatherapy” already has you rolling your eyes, stay with us. 

The findings of the research – led by Professor Jacques Chelly of Pittsburgh University’s anaesthesiology department – were presented last weekend at no less an event than the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care in Milan. 

Punters deemed to be suitably anxious pre-op and who agreed to sign up for the study were given an adhesive “aromatab” at least an hour before the procedure. They wore a patch on their skin, clothes or hospital gown for 72 hours after getting their shiny new hip, replacing the patch every 12 hours. 

Lucky patients got the lavender and peppermint patch, but a placebo group had to make do with one that emitted sweet almond oil – which apparently isn’t great at reducing anxiety. 

While both groups were equally unchilled before the op, the researchers found opioid use in the aromatherapy group was 50% lower in the first 48 hours after surgery than in the almond-sniffing placebo crew. 

Good news for hip replacement folks everywhere, right? 

Not entirely. 

In another, not directly-related study, researchers found participants who were high on the Bullshit Receptivity Scale (BSR) “were 70% more likely to use essential oils and were more likely to find them effective”. 

Yes, the BSR is a thing. The Back Page was delighted to learn that the 30-point scale can assess people based on their reception of pseudo-profound fabricated statements such as “Imagination is inside exponential space time events

So, what does this mean for patients? 

The true believers may be rushing to the local health food store to stock up on patches, looking forward to a new hip and a blissed-out recovery. 

But until we see the Pittsburgh uni team’s research published and peer-reviewed, and possibly even after that, we’re going to be dismissing the old aromatherapy patch as bunkum and opting for a heavy dose of post-op opioids, thanks very much. 

If you see something that tweaks your bullshit receptors, send it to penny@medicalrepublic.com.au