Electroconvulsive Therapy

(Therapy, Electroconvulsive; ECT)


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) sends an electronic current through the brain. This current causes brief seizure activity. This causes changes in brain chemistry. ECT can reduce symptoms associated several mental health conditions.
The Brain
Color coded brain
During ECT, an electronic current is delivered to the brain.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

ECT is commonly used to treat:
  • Severe depression that does not respond to medication or that causes serious symptoms, like psychosis and suicidal thoughts
  • Schizophrenia
  • Severe mania that does not respond to medication
In some cases, ECT may also be used for other mental or neurological conditions.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems like:
  • Short-term changes in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Short-term abnormal heart rate
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches or soreness
  • Cognitive impairment, such as problems with thinking and memory, usually go away after a couple of weeks. In some cases, memory problems may last for several months.
Rare complications include:Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
  • Having a history of heart problems, stroke , or high blood pressure
  • Pregnancy—this form of therapy may increase the risk of complications in the fetus
  • Not responding well to medication
  • Increased age

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