Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a treatment option for patients suffering from severe depression who have been unsuccessful with other forms of treatment, such as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Bipolar and Schizophrenia are other illnesses that can be effectively treated by ECT.
ECT involves sending electronic current briefly through a portion of the brain. A thorough psychiatric evaluation must be completed to determine whether or not a patient is a good candidate for ECT. Other tests must be done prior to receiving such services including a physical, EKG, CT of the head, Chest X-ray, and the patient must be medically cleared by a physician.
In recent years, ECT has been much improved. A muscle relaxant is given before treatment, which is done under brief anesthesia. Electrodes are placed at precise locations on the head to deliver electrical impulses. The stimulation causes a brief (about 30 seconds) seizure within the brain. The person receiving ECT does not consciously experience the electrical stimulus. For full therapeutic benefit, at least several sessions of ECT, typically given at the rate of three per week, are required.
The actual procedure itself lasts only a few seconds and the patient wakes up from the effects of anesthesia within 5 to 10 minutes. It is a well controlled, highly successful treatment option.
ECT is an effective medical treatment alternative, helping as many as 90% of patients who receive it . Most patients remain well for many months afterwards. The tendency to relapse after a favorable treatment outcome can often be countered by medication after a series of treatments. Maintenance treatments of ECT may be given depending on individual patient need.
Side-effects may result from the anesthesia, the ECT treatment or both. Common side-effects include temporary short-term memory loss, such as recent events, dates or what you ate that morning. Other side-effects could include confusion, nausea, muscle aches and headache. Some people may have longer-lasting problems with memory after ECT, but this type of memory loss is rare.