Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Depression Shock Therapy

Shock Therapy for Depression
Those with severe depression may not respond to medications. These patients may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is also called shock therapy. During ECT, electrodes are placed on the patient's head, and an instrument is programmed to deliver a short burst of electricity to the brain. ECT triggers a short seizure, lasting about one minute.

ECT is performed under general anesthesia, in order to prevent pain and control prolonged seizures. Usually, a patient receives therapy 3 times a week, for 2 to 4 weeks. ECT improves symptoms in about 75 percent of patients who complete the full course of treatment.

The most common side effects of electroconvulsive therapy include:

  • Brief episodes of mild confusion:
    • May last several minutes to a few hours
    • Episodes of confusion may become longer after each additional treatment.
  • Temporary, mild memory loss:
    • May persist for a couple of months after treatment
    • Usually resolves
    • Permanent memory loss is unusual.

Additional side effects of electroconvulsive therapy include:

Continue to Depression Specialist

Last Updated: Dec 9, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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