What is ECT?
- ECT is a procedure that involves brain stimulation whereby an electric current is generated in the brain and purposefully triggers a brief seizure.
- ECT stimulates certain regions in the brain associated with your psychiatric or neurologic symptoms and causes a reverse in the symptoms.
- The electrical current is given in a controlled setting under anesthesia and complete muscle relaxation to maximize safety and benefit from the procedure.
What is ECT used for?
- ECT is used as an alternative treatment when standardized treatments fail to produce significant improvements. ECT is used for several psychiatric disorders and symptoms including:
- Severe depression
- Severe mania
- Electroconvulsive therapy is sometimes used as a last-resort treatment for:
- Treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette’s syndrome
What should I do before receiving ECT?
Before undergoing treatment with ECT, your doctor will ask you to complete several evaluations including:
- A medical history
- A physical examination
- Basic blood tests
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart health
How do I receive ECT?
- The treatments are usually given in the morning.
- The number of treatments you will receive cannot be known ahead of time.
- A typical course of ECT is 6-12 treatments. You may need less or more treatments.
- Treatments are usually given three times a week, but the frequency of treatment may also vary depending on your needs.
What is it like to receive ECT?
- ECT involves general anesthesia under medical supervision.
- After you are asleep, a carefully controlled amount of electricity will be passed between two electrodes that have been placed on your head.
- The electrical current produces a seizure in the brain, which lasts for approximately one minute.
- The medication used to relax your muscles will greatly soften the contractions in your body that accompany the seizure. You will be given oxygen to breathe.
- Few minutes later, the anesthetic medications will wear off and you will awaken.
- You will not be able to drive throughout and 2 weeks after your treatment
- You should avoid major life or financial decisions while you are undergoing ECT
How can I benefit from ECT?
- ECT may result in rapid and significant improvements in your symptoms
- It can be a good treatment option during pregnancy
What are the side effects of ECT?
- Like other medical treatments, ECT has risks and side effects
- Similar to any procedure using general anesthesia, there is a remote possibility of death from ECT (1 in 10,000 patients).
- Serious medical complications are very rare under medical supervision. Your doctor can help you assess your risks given your medical condition.
Memory loss is a common side effect of ECT. You should discuss with your doctors on strategies that can dramatically reduce this risk.
- Most patients state that the benefits of ECT outweigh the problems with memory.