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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT is done under general anesthesia when the patient is asleep and given a muscle relaxant to prevent a physical seizure. ECT causes changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. It often works when other treatments are unsuccessful.

Patients Appropriate for Referral

  • Severely depressed patients who require a rapidly effective treatment. 
  • Patients with depression who have demonstrated resistance to other treatments, usually 2-3 adequate trials of antidepressant medication. 
  • People who, due to their medical conditions or other reasons such as pregnancy, cannot take recommended antidepressant medication because of potential side effects. 
  • Patients with acute psychosis not responsive to medications alone. 
  • People with severe psychiatric condition known as catatonia. 
  • Individuals with a variety of other conditions, such as neuroleptic malignant syndrome, severe mania, delirium, and severe Parkinson's with depression and psychosis. 
  • We are studying the efficacy of ECT for the neuropsychiatric disturbances seen with dementia.

There is no standard number of treatments; however, an acute course generally averages three per week, for a total of 8-12 treatments. Many patients continue treatment, often tapering for several months.  Some patients choose maintenance ECT for chronic illness. For more information or to make a referral, please call (207) 662-2816.