West Oaks Hospital offers electroconvulsive therapy for severely depressed patients. Though the idea may seem startling, in fact, ECT can be a very effective method of treatment when medication and therapy are not enough. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our medical staff will also consult with you on the risks and benefits of ECT treatment if you are found to be a suitable candidate. There are risks associated with any treatment procedure and individual results may vary. Please consult the dedicated professionals within our ECT program to find out if you are a candidate for the procedure.