Seth Godin has recently written an article discussing the power of placebos. Sham surgery is a 'fake' operation where the patient is dressed in a hospital gown and taken through all the regular pre- and post- surgical rituals such as fasting, anesthesia and having an incision made to their skin to make it look like surgery was actually performed.
A study conducted of a number of elective surgeries in the US found that more than half of the time patients would have had at least a good an outcome - as measured by their own perception of success - if they had undergone sham surgery, as real surgery. Click here to read Seth Godin's post.
Although this is being billed as demonstrating the power of placebos, there is another direction to consider. The low success rate of the actual surgeries may be because of an over-referral for surgery, because of the incentive created by the presence of the medical insurer.