Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What conditions does electroconvulsive
therapy (also called ECT) may help people who have the following conditions:
- Severe depression with insomnia (trouble
sleeping), weight change, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, and thoughts of
suicide (hurting or killing yourself) or homicide (hurting or killing someone
- Severe depression that does not respond to
antidepressants (medicines used to treat depression) or counseling.
- Severe depression in patients who can't take
- Severe mania that does not respond to medicines.
Symptoms of severe mania may include talking too much, insomnia, weight loss or
does ECT work?
It is believed that
ECT works by causing a seizure (a short period of irregular brain activity) with
an electrical shock. This seizure releases many chemicals in the brain. These
chemicals, called neurotransmitters, deliver messages from one brain cell to
another. The release of these chemicals makes the brain cells work better. A
patient's mood will improve when these brain cells and chemical messengers work
What steps are taken to
prepare for ECT treatment?
a doctor will do a physical exam to make sure you're physically able to have the
treatment. If you are, you will meet with an anesthesiologist (a doctor who
specializes in giving anesthesia). The anesthesiologist will examine your heart
and lungs to see if it is safe for you to have anesthesia. You may need to have
some blood tests and an electrocardiogram (a test showing the rhythm of your
heart) before your first ECT treatment.
How are the ECT treatments given?
ECT may be given during a hospital
stay, or a person can go to a hospital just for the treatment and then go home.
ECT is given up to 3 times a week. Usually no more than 12 treatments are
needed. Treatment is given by a psychiatrist.
Before each treatment, an intravenous
(IV) line will be started so medicine can be put directly into your blood. You
will be given an anesthetic (medicine to put you into a sleep-like state) and a
medicine to relax your muscles. Your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing
will be watched closely. After you are asleep, an electrical shock will be
applied to your head. The shock will last only 1 or 2 seconds and will make your
brain have a seizure. This seizure is controlled by medicines so your body
doesn't move when you have the seizure.
You will wake up within 5 minutes and
will be taken to a recovery room to be watched. When you are fully awake, you
can eat and drink, get dressed, and return to your hospital room or go
What are some side effects of
Side effects may result from
the anesthesia, the ECT treatment or both. Common side effects include temporary
short-term memory loss, nausea, muscle aches and headache. Some people may have
longer-lasting problems with memory after ECT. Sometimes a person's blood
pressure or heart rhythm changes. If these changes occur, they are carefully
watched during the ECT treatments and are immediately
What happens after the ECT
treatments are done?
have finished all of your ECT treatments, you will probably be started on an
antidepressant medicine. It is important for you to keep taking this medicine as
your doctor tells you to so that you won't become depressed