ECT is considered one of the most effective treatments used in behavioral medicine today! It can provide relief for patients who haven’t improved with medications, psychotherapy, or other forms of treatment.
What is ECT?
ECT is an elective procedure used to treat mental illnesses, most commonly severe depression. It is also effective in treating symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses.
The treatment uses a brief pulse of electricity, which creates chemical changes in the brain. These changes can improve brain function and provide quick relief. There is also evidence that suggests ECT stimulates new brain cell growth and development.
What Illnesses Can ECT Treat?
ECT is most commonly used to treat patients with severe depression who have not responded to antidepressant medications and/or psychotherapy.
It may also help patients who are unable to take antidepressants due to health conditions or side effects of the medications.
ECT is used to treat patients in life-threatening situations Including:
- Patients at risk for suicide
- Patients with Catatonia, or highly irregular behavior
- Patients so severely depressed they are unable to eat or care for themselves
Why Learn About ECT?
It is important to understand the risks and benefits that ECT presents. In many cases, ECT is considered a life-saving treatment! ECT can rapidly end a severe depressive episode and help to reduce suicidal thoughts or other depressive symptoms.
ECT can provide faster relief from the feeling of depression than antidepressants and/or psychotherapy can. This is why it is used as the treatment of choice for patients needing quick relief from their symptoms. It is considered to be a low-risk procedure and produces few or no long-term side effects. Treatments are performed in a controlled environment under the direct supervision of a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist.
ECT is also used to treat symptoms of other mental disorders including:
- Bipolar disorder – an illness that causes a person to experience dramatic mood swings and periods of hyperactivity and depression (highs and lows).
- Schizophrenia – an illness that causes disturbances in thought processes and interferes with a patient’s ability to function.
- ECT has also been used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – a disease that affects a person’s ability to move.
Preparation for Treatment
ECT is a voluntary procedure and only performed on patients who have given full, informed consent. The physician will explain all of the benefits, risks, and possible side effects of the treatments. Patients can choose to stop treatment at any time throughout the process.
Before receiving any treatments, patients are required to have a full medical evaluation by a primary care physician. The provider will evaluate the patient’s medical history, current medications, and the ability to undergo general anesthesia and ECT therapy.
How are ECT treatments performed?
After arriving at the ECT Treatment Center, the patient will be greeted by a team member to help complete the registration process. Once complete, the patient will be escorted to the treatment room and prepared for ECT. This will include:
- An assessment by the nurse and doctors
- Vital signs being taken
- A nurse placing an IV in your arm
- An oxygen mask placed over your nose and mouth
- Electrodes placed on your head and chest
Once ready for treatment, the patient will be given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant by the anesthesiologist. This will cause the patient to fall asleep until after the ECT treatment has been performed. Patients are completely asleep during treatment and do not have any memory of the procedure.
The treatment is delivered by the psychiatrist using the ECT machine. This machine delivers a brief electrical stimulus across the brain. This stimulus produces a mild seizure that lasts about 45 – 60 seconds. Throughout the procedure, the patient is continuously monitored by a team of professionals. Once the patient wakes up (5-10 minutes after the procedure), they are escorted to the recovery room. Once fully awake, alert, and ready to leave, the patient will be discharged.
Patients are initially treated 3x weekly. Your psychiatrists will make recommendations on the number of treatments based on your progress. A patient may be scheduled for additional “maintenance” treatments after the initial 6-12 treatment phase.
Is ECT Right for Me?
Electroconvulsive Therapy is a safe and controlled procedure that has been shown to be very effective for patients struggling with a number of mental illnesses.
ECT’s safety and effectiveness in treating mental illness is recognized by the world’s leading medical institutions and associations (American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health).
It is covered by most insurance providers, which is an important factor to consider. Many patients are unable to afford complicated treatment and medication regimens and may find ECT to be a more affordable option.
Your unique mental health situation may require a specialty solution, such as ECT,
to ensure the best care possible.
ECT may be the best treatment option that can help you or a loved one return to a normal and productive life.
Begin ECT at San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital
Whether you’re looking into it for yourself or you’re a psychiatrist with a patient who could benefit from electroconvulsive therapy, we offer options and assistance throughout the entire process.
ECT is offered at San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital as part of our specialty services.
TO LEARN MORE OR DETERMINE IF ECT IS RIGHT FOR YOU, A LOVED ONE, OR FRIEND, PLEASE CALL 210-592-7372.