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
    • Schizophrenia
    • 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.

Useful links on ECT

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
www.nimh.nih.gov