Behavioral Health
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Depression is a physical illness. It’s estimated that more than 16 million American adults age 18 and over are diagnosed with major depressive disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Depression often accompanies other behavioral health diagnoses, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, or catatonia. It can often be triggered by everyday life stresses or changes. If not treated, major depressive disorder starts a cycle that can make it impossible for a person to function.

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is one of the most effective treatments in psychiatry. St. Luke’s Psychiatric team has extensive experience using electroconvulsive therapy to safely and effectively treat patients with mental illnesses who have not had success with other forms of treatment.

ECT sends a brief electrical current to the brain. It is endorsed by the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association, so you should feel confident in the safety of this line of treatment.

Offered as an inpatient as well as outpatient service, ECT is a valuable and effective first-line intervention in emergency situations and is used with patients who may be actively suicidal, psychotic, nutritionally compromised or catatonic.

What Does Electroconvulsive Therapy Treat?

Our use of the latest ECT techniques and technologies allow us to treat the following conditions:

  • Severe depression
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Severe mania
  • Catatonia
  • Agitation and aggression in people with dementia
  • In older adults who cannot tolerate drug side effects
  • In people who prefer ECT treatments over taking medications
  • When ECT has been successful in the past

What to Expect During ECT

Before treatment, you must have a psychiatric and a medical evaluation which includes a physical examination, blood testing and an electrocardiogram (EKG). You may also need chest and spinal x-rays and the psychiatrist must review all medications you currently take. There are a few medical conditions that the use of electroconvulsive therapy is not recommended and your psychiatrist will consult with any specialists from whom you currently receive care.

The procedure lasts five to 10 minutes, with added time for preparation and recovery. The number and type of treatments needed depends on the severity of symptoms and how rapidly they improve.

Possible Side Effects

Although ECT is generally safe and our staff closely monitors your treatment, there are some risks associated with the treatment. Over time, these side effects can subside after a few weeks and/or be treated with over-the-counter medicine.

Risks and side effects associated with ECT include:

  • Confusion immediately after treatment
  • Nausea, headache, jaw pain, muscle ache on days of treatment
  • Complications from anesthesia
  • Watch blood pressure and heart rate

Insurance Coverage

Electroconvulsive Therapy is covered by Medicare, Medicare and most major insurances.