What is ECT?

ECT still remains a controversial treatment for depression. It is a treatment that remains underused and is often misunderstood. Electrodes (conductors which passes electricity to the brain) are positioned on a patient’s head whilst the patient is asleep under a general anaesthetic given by a doctor. ECT takes place in a hospital environment. An electric current crosses the brain tissue causing a small seizure (fit). To ensure that the seizure has very little effect on the body, patients are given a muscle relaxant when they have their anaesthetic. This means that the muscles in the body don’t all tense up when the electric current causes a seizure. It is not clear how ECT works; but it can have a rapid onset of action and can benefit many depressed patients. Often “top up” sessions of ECT are required to maintain the patient‘s ability to manage any residual depressive symptoms.

It is about 50% effective in patients with DTD and is approved by NICE for use in these cases.

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