Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a very effective and generally safe treatment for depression and some other psychiatric diorders that uses controlled electrical current to intentionally trigger seizures in the brain to produce a terapeutic effect in a very select group of patients (see indications on the right).
Today ECT is done in a hospital under general anesthesia under the supervision of an anesthetist and is safe and pain-free.
Like any surgery, you will receive medicine to relax you (muscle relaxant), make you sleep for a few minutes and prevent you from feeling pain (short-acting anesthetic). A small controlled amount of electric current will then be delivered to your head using a spphiusticated machine. This will cause seizure activity in the brain which lasts for a few seconds. Bacause a muscle relaxant has been given there will not be actual convulsions (fits) of the body and there will be only slight movement of fingers and toes. A few minutes after the ECT, the person wake up. The person will usually not remember the treatment.
There will be close monitoring by an anesthetist and the psychiatrist during and after the procedure.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can provide rapid, significant improvements in the severe symptoms of these conditions
Is it safe?
Much of the stigma attached to ECT is based on early treatments in which high doses of electricity were administered without anesthesia, leading to memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects.
ECT is safe today and is given to people while they're under general anesthesia, using a small amount of controlled electrical current in a controlled setting to achieve the most benefit with the fewest possible risks.
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