Electroconvulsive therapy is a treatment for depression that uses electricity to trigger a seizure.
Shock treatment; ECT
How the test is performed
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is most often done in a hospital's operating or recovery room while you are asleep and pain-free (general
- You receive medicine to relax you (muscle relaxant) and to prevent you from feeling pain (short-acting anesthetic).
- A small amount of electric current is delivered to the brain to cause
seizureactivity. It lasts for about 40 seconds. Medicine is given to prevent the seizure from spreading throughout the body.
- ECT is usually given once every 2 - 5 days for a total of 6 - 12 sessions.
How to prepare for the test
Because general anesthesia is used for this procedure, you will be advised to not eat or drink before ECT.
Ask your health care provider whether you should take any daily medications in the morning before ECT.
How the test will feel
Some people report mild confusion and headache after ECT. Hospital staff will monitor you closely after the procedure to make sure that you recover completely.
Why the test is performed
ECT is a highly effective treatment for
- Cannot take antidepressant drugs
- Are suicidal
- Are pregnant and severely depressed
- Have certain heart problems
It is also used to treat
Review Date: 08/24/2008
Reviewed By: Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.