You may have seen it. The hyped up “Hollywood” image of a patient on a medical table with electrodes strapped to either side of his head.
The doctor pulls the lever to release a major explosion of electricity that shocks the body and causes the patient lying on the table to scream and writhe in pain.
You can imagine then when recently I was visiting with a friend and she mentioned Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT as a therapy for mental illnesses such as suicidal Depression and Bipolar Disorder I was a little surprised.
Well… It sounded pretty crazy to me.
However, my interest was piqued and I began to research this treatment known as Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.
I found some interesting information. In this article we’ll discuss s basic history of what it is, who might be considered a good candidate, and any side effects that could occur when having this treatment done.
In 1938 Ugo Cerletti, an Italian neurologist discovered the method of electroconvulsive therapy or ECT as a way to treat mental illness.
At that time in the world there had already been much study of fever and mental disease, insulin induced convulsions and schizophrenia, which actually showed that improvement was made when the mentally ill brain was “reset” by fever or insulin induced seizures.
Cerletti wanted to see if electric currents applied to the brain could have a similar effect in helping to reset the brain in patients who suffered with mental illness.
What it is?
Since the time in 1938, Electroconvulsive therapy has changed quite a bit.
In today’s world Electroconvulsive therapy involves controlled electric currents applied to the brain to intentionally induce a 60 second seizure which basically can assist in “re-setting” the chemical imbalance in the brain.
There are usually about 8-12 treatments with follow up treatments as needed.
Some examples for good candidates would be those who suffer with mental illness such as bipolar disorder or severe suicidal depression who have not responded well to medications.
According to the Mayo Clinic: “ECT is much safer and painless today and is given to people while they’re under general anesthesia. Although ECT still causes some side effects, it now uses electrical currents given in a controlled setting to achieve the most benefit with the fewest possible risks.”
One study, the Consortium for Research in ECT study, found an 86% remission rate for those with severe major depression. The same study found it to be effective in reducing chances of relapse when the
patients underwent follow-up treatments.
What are the side effects?
Some of the side effects when undergoing ECT are short term confusion and memory loss immediately after the procedure for several minutes or several hours where you may not know where you are or why
you are there.
On the day you receive treatment you may struggle with headache, and fatigue or muscle soreness right after you receive the procedure which can be treated with medications.
Because the patient undergoes anesthesia, as with any other procedure involving anesthesia there are also increased risks associated with that.
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