Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the formal name of shock treatment for depression and is one of the established primary treatments for the condition. Due to the invasive nature of ECT, debate still rages on as to whether it should be used. However, it is still an effective remedy used when other methods seem ineffective and when the condition becomes uncontrollable and severe resulting in suicidal tendencies as well as. Here is a more detailed look at how ECT for depression works.

How Does Shock Treatment for Depression Work?

It is believed that ECT triggers a mild seizure in the brain that influences many chemicals in the brain. The chemicals are referred to as neurotransmitters and deliver messages from one brain cell to the other. The effects of ECT on the chemicals makes the brain cells work better. The mood of the patient will also improve once the chemical messengers and brain cells work better.

What Is Done To Prepare A Patient For ECT Treatment?

The physical examination performed by a doctor is the first thing done to ensure that the patient will physically be able to handle the treatment. If the patient is able to handle the treatment, he or she will meet with an anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist administers anesthesia, which is medicine used to put the patient in a sleep-like state so that he or she does not experience discomfort or pain. The anesthesiologist next examines the lungs and heart to ensure that it is safe to administer anesthesia. The patient may require some blood tests as well as an electrocardiogram before undergoing the first ECT treatment.

How Is The ECT Treatment For Depression Administered?

ECT treatments can be administered either in-patient or out-patient. The treatment is usually administered thrice a week. 6 to 12 treatments are usually sufficient to relieve depression but as many as 20 treatments are sometimes administered. A psychiatrist administers the treatment.

An intravenous Line (IV) is started before each treatment so that medicine is put directly into the blood. The patient is then given anesthetic as well as medicine to relax the muscles. The heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are all monitored closely.

Once the patient is asleep, a mild electrical shock is applied to his or her head. The shock lasts for just 1 or 2 seconds and makes the brain have a mild seizure. The effect of the seizure on the body is controlled by the muscle relaxers and anesthetic medicine. The medicines ensure that the body does not move during the seizure.

The patient will wake up within 5 -10 minutes after treatment and is subsequently taken to a recovery room for observation and monitoring. Once the patient is fully awake, he or she is able to get dressed, drink, eat, and either go home or return to the hospital room.

What Are The Side Effects Of ECT For Depression?

Side effects usually result from the ECT treatment, the anesthesia, or both. Common side effects include headaches, muscle aches, nausea, confusion, and short-term memory loss. Some patients may experience longer-lasting memory problems after ECT. In some cases, the heart rhythm and blood pressure changes. If such changes occur, they are monitored carefully during the ECT treatments and treated immediately.

What Happens After Conclusion Of The ECT Treatments?

Once the patient has finished all the ECT treatment, his or her depression is likely to improve and the patient will be started on antidepressant medication. The patient may also receive infrequent ECT treatments. It is important for patients to continue taking prescribed medication in the prescribed way to ensure that depression does not resurface.

Final Thoughts

ECT or shock treatment for depression is an effective remedy for the condition. If you suffer from depression, consider consulting your doctor to determine whether it is the right treatment for you.