To get a referral, call (478) 741-1355 or (800) 548-4221.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a modern medical treatment offered at the Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health. It is intended for certain illnesses that have mental or emotional symptoms. In this treatment, the patient receives brief electrical stimulation to the scalp. The nerve-cell activity releases chemicals in the brain and helps restore normal functioning.

Severe depression is the most frequent indication for ECT. While medications and therapy help most people with depression, ECT is indicated for some individuals. Some patients do not respond to medications, while others cannot tolerate the side-effects. Others whose illness has made them seriously suicidal require the relief that ECT can provide. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are some other illnesses that can be helped by ECT.

How Does Ect Work?

ECT is administered by a treatment team of doctors, nurses and anesthesia specialists. ECT is given in a hospital, in a specially-equipped area, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. With the patient reclining, a sleeping medication is injected in a vein and the patient falls asleep. A muscle-relaxing medication is then injected, while the patient breathes pure oxygen. When the patient's muscles are relaxed, a brief electrical charge is applied to the scalp, stimulating the brain into a seizure that lasts about a minute and is accompanied by release of chemicals from nerves in the brain. Mild contractions of the muscles occur during the seizure. When the procedure is over, the patient is taken to a recovery area and observed by trained staff until he or she is ready to return home.

How Many Treatments Are Given & How Often?

ECT is usually given two to three times a week, for a total of approximately 6 to 12 treatments. A few patients may require more than 12 treatments for maximum benefit.

What Are the Main Side-Effects Of ECT?

On awakening from ECT, it is customary for patients to experience some confusion, which generally clears within an hour. Memory for recent events, dates, names of friends, public events, addresses and telephone numbers may not be as good. In most patients the memory disturbance goes away within a few days or weeks, but it occasionally continues in a mild form for a period of months, or longer. Many patients will find that their memories are somewhat hazy for the time that they were ill; the same problem is frequently experienced by depressed patients who do not receive ECT.

Can ECT Cause Brain Damage Or Permanent Memory Loss?

There is no evidence that ECT causes brain damage. Patients receiving ECT show no elevation of brain enzymes that are released into the bloodstream when brain damage occurs, such as after a stroke. The amount of electricity used raises brain temperature far less than 1/10 of a degree and cannot cause electrical injury. ECT does not cause memory loss in most people. Most importantly, ECT does not interfere with the ability to learn, and many studies have shown better learning after ECT than before it, probably because of improved concentration from relief of depression. In a few rare instances, patients have not regained some specific personal memories when tested six months or longer after ECT. Generally these memories are for events in the months immediately preceding ECT. Memory problems in patients with psychiatric illness result more often from medications, incompletely-treated illness, and aging.

Must A Patient Give Permission For ECT?

Yes. Informed consent for ECT must be obtained in writing after an explanation of the procedure, its potential benefits, risks and side-effects, and a description of available alternative treatments. The patient can withdraw his or her consent at any time.

How Are Referrals Made?

Referrals are made by calling the Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health located on the campus of Coliseum Medical Centers. All referrals are received through Lifeline, the 24-hour crisis help line of Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health. Lifeline can be reached at (478) 741-1355 or (800) 548-4221.