Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which direct current is applied to stimulate the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. It’s a safe, effective proceudrea and considered the best treatment option when other forms of therapy have not worked.

ECT is the most effective treatment for mood disorders including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder, and Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD). ECT is considered the best treatment when depression cooccurs with suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm.

Before the procedure, the patient has an IV inserted and general anesthesia. Once the patient is asleep, a brief intense electrical current to the patient’s head is applied which induces a brief motor seizure which generally lasts less than a minute. In total a patient is asleep for 5 to 10 minutes. Patients are monitored in the recovery room and then released.

Yes, ECT is a safe treatment.Thousands of patients receive ECT each year in the United States without complications. ECT is endorsed by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the US Surgeon General.

Immediately post ECT headaches can be common and usually relieved with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Thinking and memory side effects are not uncommon. Additionally, during treatment, patients cannot drive.

ECT treatments are generally given three times weekly for three to four weeks. Most people require 6 to 12 treatments, although up to 20 or more treatments are needed in some cases during the initial phases of treatment.Your physician will determine your treatment plan with your input.

Before having the first ECT treatment, a patient will need a full evaluation, which usually includes: medical history; complete physical exam; psychiatric assessment; basic blood tests; and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check heart health. These exams help to make sure that the general anesthesia will be safe for you. It is the same medical clearance required for outpatient surgical procedures.

Your physician will consult with you regarding any impact to your medications.

Most patients will be drowsy and feel “out of it” on the day of ECT. Some people may feel like napping, but most will be able to go home soon after treatment. Because patients are at risk of falling, they are carefully monitored. Patients can generally return to normal activities a day after the procedure.

ECT is covered by most major insurances and we will obtain insurance authorization prior to services performed. We will advocate for your coverage and work with you on any needs.

ECT is a very effective form of treatment for severe depression and patients with bipolar depression with a success rate of 75-83%.

ECT may include memory side effects and thinking can be distorted. Memory difficulty during the entire course of treatment is not uncommon. Overall, ECT today causes far less memory loss than ECT in previous decades. For most patients, a small degree of temporary memory difficulty is a reasonable side effect to tolerate given likelihood of substantial improvement in depressive symptoms.

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