ECT – What is Electro Convulsive Therapy and Why is it Used?

ECT, Electro Convulsive Therapy

A stigma is attached to ECT. In modern medicine, this fear is not justified. The stigma comes from the early forms of this treatment in which high doses of electricity were applied to a patient without the use of anesthesia. This often led to severe side effects including memory loss and bone fracturing. Today, this treatment is much safer and in certain cases, the most viable treatment option.

What is ECT in Modern Medicine?

ECT is a procedure done under general anesthesia where small amounts of electricity are passed through brain tissue. This triggers brief and mild seizures in the patient. ECT causes changes in the chemistry of the brain that reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. True, this may sound extreme, but in most cases, this is the final treatment that a doctor will administer when combating mental illness. Often times, patients see positive results with this treatment when all other methods have failed. There are some side effects that should be taken into consideration as with any medical procedure. They include confusion, memory loss, medical complications and sometimes physical side effects such as soreness, nausea, and headaches. That being said, ECT is very safe when administered with modern techniques in a controlled environment.

When is ECT a Viable Treatment Option?

Though it is often considered the last resort, ECT has been effective in rapidly improving symptoms of severe depression when other treatments have already failed to produce results. ECT has also produced improvements in patients suffering from varying stages of catatonia, mania, and aggression in dementia patients.

As with any medical procedure, you should always discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor. It is important to note that ECT is a viable option but most doctors would agree it is not right for everyone. It becomes relevant is in cases when other medications have failed, or cannot be taken for whatever reason.


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Latest update: May 5, 2016
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