Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive Therapy at West Oaks Hospital
West Oaks Hospital offers electroconvulsive therapy for severely depressed patients.
In recent years, medicine has vastly improved the diagnosis and treatment options available for those suffering from mental illness. Though the idea may seem startling, in fact, ECT can be a very effective method of treatment when medication and therapy are not enough.
New therapies and medications have helped countless people recover from debilitating psychiatric problems that were previously thought untreatable. The procedure is given to adults two to three times a week for six to 12 treatment sessions. ECT has proven most effective for patients with major depression. Electroconvulsive Therapy is an option for patients who have not responded to traditional therapies and medication.
Patients undergo a physical and psychiatric evaluation to determine if ECT may benefit their condition. After the evaluation, we ask the patient to schedule an appointment with their primary care provider to complete a history, physical and any tests identified by the physician. This information is sent to the ECT team for review prior to treatment being scheduled.
Frequently Asked Questions on ECT
What is Electroconvulsive Therapy?
Electroconvulsive Therapy is a treatment for adults 18 years and older who suffer from severe episodes of major depression, persistent suicidal ideation, mania and some types of schizophrenia and who have either not responded to medications or whose symptoms are too severe to permit medication trials. The procedure occurs two to three times a week for a total of six to 12 treatments.
What Happens during an ECT Procedure?
We ask that patients not eat or drink anything from midnight the night before the procedure until after treatment is completed the following day. The morning of the procedure, patients arrive to the waiting area and complete a clinical survey. The patient then enters the ECT suite and meets the nurse, psychiatrist and anesthesiologist.
During the procedure, the patient receives a brief-acting anesthetic that puts them to sleep for approximately seven minutes. A muscle relaxant is given shortly after to prevent muscle spasms. Patients wake up several minutes after the procedure ends and are transferred to the recovery area. They stay until blood pressure and alertness have returned to normal, which usually takes about 20 minutes.
Do patients need to take antidepressants with ECT?
Although ECT is a short-term treatment option for major depression, relapse can occur within months or weeks if patients do not supplement the procedure with antidepressant medication. For this reason, we request patients take antidepressant medication during and after ECT.
Is ECT Effective?
Electroconvulsive Therapy has been proven to be a useful treatment method with more than half of severely treatment-resistant patients achieving remission, according to the National Institutes of Health. Still, there is no guarantee that ECT will be effective. Your doctor will discuss with you why ECT inpatient or ECT outpatient therapy is being recommended and what alternative treatments may be available.
Is ECT Safe?
Prior to Electroconvulsive Therapy, patients will undergo a physical and psychiatric evaluation to ensure that the treatments can be administered in the most effective manner. Medications may be adjusted to minimize risk and maximize effectiveness. However, all treatments have risks and side effects. The most common side effects of ECT include muscle aches, nausea, short-term memory loss and headaches.
Am I Eligible for ECT?
There are risks associated with any treatment procedure and individual results may vary. Please consult the dedicated professionals within the ECT program at West Oaks Hospital to assess if you are a candidate for ECT therapy. Our Medical Staff will also consult with you on the risks and benefits of ECT treatment if you are a suitable candidate.
How Does ECT work?
At West Oaks Hospital, Electroconvulsive Therapy is performed by a team of medical professionals specifically trained in its delivery. This team consists of a psychiatrist, anesthesiologist and nursing staff. The psychiatrist commonly delivers the ECT stimulation. The anesthesia team administers general anesthesia, medications and monitors the patient’s medical status throughout the procedure. After the treatment, nursing staff will continue to monitor the patient’s progress until they return to the inpatient or outpatient unit.
Can patients drive after ECT?
Patients are not allowed to drive during the entire ECT course and for two weeks after the last treatment in an acute series of ECT. An acute series is usually three treatments a week for six to 12 treatments. Patients who receive maintenance ECT are only prohibited from driving the day of the procedure.
What are the common side-effects of ECT?
The ability to form new memories can be impaired during and after an acute series of ECT treatments but this ability makes a full recovery in about two weeks from the last treatment. Immediate side effects of the procedure may include headaches, nausea, muscle aches, disorientation and confusion.
ECT cannot resolve other problems associated with personal relationships or how an individual copes with the stressors of life. Other interventions such as psychotherapy may be recommended.
There are risks associated with any treatment procedure and individual results may vary. Please consult the dedicated professionals within the ECT program at West Oaks Hospital to assess if you are a candidate for ECT treatment. Our Medical Staff will also consult with you on the risks and benefits of ECT treatment if you are a suitable candidate.