Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure that passes a small electric current through your brain to treat depression and other debilitating behavioral health illnesses. In many cases, ECT can significantly reduce or even reverse symptoms such as severe depression, suicidal thoughts, mania and catatonia.
You may be a candidate for ECT if medication or other treatments have not worked. ECT is done in a hospital setting while you are under general anesthesia. Patients typically receive treatments that are initially a few times per week and then space out to every week for approximately six to 12 weeks.
ECT itself takes about five to 10 minutes, with added time for preparation and recovery. For your first treatment(s), you may be admitted to the hospital, with subsequent treatments as an outpatient.
Preparing for ECT
- Before ECT, you receive medicine to relax you (muscle relaxant). You also receive a short-acting anesthetic to minimize any pain.
- The medical team places electrodes on your scalp to monitor your brain activity and deliver the electric current.
Risks and side effects may include confusion, memory loss, physical side effects and medical complications. These risks will vary by patient. Discuss your ECT treatment plan and its potential risks and side effects with your doctor.