Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), referred to as Shock Therapy, is form a treatment for depression and mental illness. During the procedure, patients are placed under general anesthesia and undergo a series of electric currents that are passed through the brain. These currents are intended to trigger a seizure in the brain of at least 20 seconds duration. This therapy is typically recommended for those with more severe depression, and for those who have not responded to other forms of mental illness treatment, such as antidepressant medication.
How does ECT work?
- ECT is typically administered in a hospital starting with 2 or 3 treatments per week, over a course of around 8 to 12 treatments.
- The procedure is given while you are under general anesthesia.
- Electrodes are placed on your head and your chest in order to monitor brain activity, your heart rhythm. Your oxygen level is also tracked during treatment using pulse oximetry.
- Muscle relaxants help to minimize your movements during the seizure.
- The exact reason that ECT works is unknown. We do know that the therapeutic effect of ECT is linked to the seizure, not the electrical current. ECT is believed to cause changes in brain chemistry that help to eliminate the symptoms of depression or other mental disorders.
Is ECT right for me?
You may be a candidate for ECT if you suffer from severe depression, have thoughts of suicide or other serious symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses. The procedure is generally recommended as a potential solution for those whose depression seems to be resistant to medication and other treatment methods.
Side effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy
While ECT is an effective depression treatment for some patients, it does not work for everyone, and there are potential side effects that you should be aware of:
- Temporary memory loss and confusion
- Muscle soreness
- Low or high blood pressure
- Heart problems, such as rapid heartbeat
ECT vs. TMS?
Many people mistakenly assume Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is similar to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). A common variation of that myth is that TMS is "mild ECT". In fact, the two treatments are very different from each other. TMS delivers repetitive stimulation to a targeted area of the brain. TMS does not involve anesthesia and has no effects on memory.Learn more about TMS