Peter J. Panzarino Jr., MD, FAPA
Peter J. Panzarino, Jr., MD, is the former Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is an Associate Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD
Dr. Schoenfield served as associate professor of medicine and consultant in gastroenterology on the faculty of the Mayo Clinic for seven years. He became a professor of medicine in residence at UCLA from 1972 to 1999 (now emeritus). He was the director of gastroenterology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for 25 years, where he received the chief resident's teaching award, the president's award, and the pioneer of medicine award.
What is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?
During the ECT procedure, an electric current is passed through the brain to produce controlled convulsions (seizures).
Why is electroconvulsive therapy performed?
ECT is useful for certain patients with significant depression, particularly for those who cannot take or are not responding to antidepressants, have severe depression, or are at a high risk for suicide. ECT often is effective in cases where antidepressant medications do not provide sufficient relief of symptoms.
How does electroconvulsive therapy work?
This procedure probably works by a massive neurochemical release in the brain due to the controlled seizure. Highly effective, ECT relieves depression within 1 to 2 weeks after beginning treatments. After ECT, some patients will continue to have maintenance ECT, while others will return to antidepressant medications.
How is electroconvulsive therapy performed today and what are the side effects?
In recent years, the technique of ECT has been much improved. The treatment is given in the hospital under anesthesia so that people receiving ECT do not feel pain. Most patients undergo 6 to 10 treatments. An electrical current is passed through the brain to cause a controlled seizure, which typically lasts for 20 to 90 seconds. The patient is awake in 5 to 10 minutes. The most common side effect is short-term memory loss, which resolves quickly. After the initial course of treatment, ECT can be safely done as an outpatient procedure.
For more in-depth information, please read MedicineNet.com's article on Depression.
Last Editorial Review: 4/24/2002
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