Electroconvulsive Therapy -- An Overview
What is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?
ECT provides a minor modification in brain activity (small seizure) when a brief electric pulse is applied to the scalp
- ECT is performed under anesthesia and is administered with precise, careful calculation for each individual patient
- Patients do not experience any pain or discomfort during the procedure
Why are So many People Afraid of ECT?
Although it is estimated that as many as 100,000 patients a year receive ECT and 80% of patients improve with this treatment, negative images still remain in the public domain
- When ECT was first introduced, it did not have the safety and comfort measures that are required today
- Historically, movies which portrayed early, dramatic and inhumane experiences with ECT have increased stigma and fear around ECT
- In the earlier decades of the 1900s, some patients were given this treatment against their will as the strict, legally required consent procedures we have today did not exist
- All procedures which are new to a patient/family can be anxiety-provoking
Which patients Benefit From ECT?
Many patients get relief from ECT when other options fail to address their pain and suffering
ECT is used most often for patients who:
- Have depression, mania, some schizophrenic disorders, are severely suicidal
- Have not responded to/improved from other treatments, such as medication or psychotherapy
- Are medically cleared to have the procedure
- Have appropriately consented to the procedure
Is Ect Safe?
Like any other medical procedure, there are risks associated with ECT; these risks are related to the body’s response to the procedure rather than the electrical current itself.
To minimize these risks:
- Patients undergo a complete medical exam performed by one of our specially trained anesthesiologists
- Routine tests are done prior to ECT including Blood work, Chest X-ray and an Electrocardiogram
- The procedure is conducted in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, equipped with all elements required to manage any complications
- There is continuous monitoring of vital signs and cardiac function during the procedure and in the recovery room
Does ECT Have any Side Effects?
Most people who have ECT report very few side effects, and these usually subside after completing the ECT course
Most commonly reported ECT side effects:
- Memory problems (the great majority of patients experience only mild, short-term memory loss, if any)
- Jaw pain
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and Vomiting (occur very rarely)
What can I Expect if Everyone (patient, family, Physician) Agrees that ECT is a Good Option for me?
Prior to the procedure:
- There is at least one required appointment to meet medical clearance guidelines
The day of the procedure:
- You will arrive at 7 am at the Same Day Surgery Unit located in 3rd floor in the Wang building
- You will meet with the psychiatrist and the anesthesiologist just before the procedure to address safety protocols and any other concerns
During the procedure
- You will undergo general anesthesia just before receiving the procedure
- The procedure itself is rather short( only about 30 seconds)
- During the procedure you will be asleep and will not experience any discomfort
After the procedure
- You will be transported to the recovery room where monitoring will continue until you completely recover from anesthesia, about 15 – 30 minutes
- After recovery, if you are an outpatient, you will be taken back to Same Day Surgery, and your designated escort can take you home
- When you return home, you should contact if you have any concerns or questions
- If you are an inpatient, you will return to the ward to rest and continue with your normal daily activities
- If you have any concerns or questions while back on the unit, notify the staff on the unit and they can contact your provider as necessary