After researching electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), I have decided that if a close family member or even myself were severely depressed I would not support the use of ECT. Electroconvulsive therapy consists of an electrical shock, which is used to produce a seizure. Many people experience seizures due to some other type of illness or illnesses, and in these cases there is medicine taken in order to prevent these occurrences. In deciding my opinion on the topic of ECT I asked myself would I want to put myself or a loved one through what others are trying to avoid; a seizure. Although ECT has proven to be effective in some cases of depression, it has many risk factors involved and it does not ensure a lifetime with out the reoccurrence of depression.
Before ECT is administered the doctor will first do a physical examination on the patient to make sure they are physically able to have the treatment. If the physical examination shows the patient is physically able the next step will be to meet with an anesthesiologist. The purpose of this visit is for the anesthesiologist to examine the heart and lungs to ensure the anesthesia given through an IV will be safe for the patient.
Another step taken will be many blood tests and a test showing the rhythm of the patient’s heart. All these procedures must be done before the first treatment of ECT is ever given. These steps are just the beginning of precautions for the treatments no one, not even the doctor, knows how the electricity passed through the brain will actually effect the patient.
ECT treatment is generally administered in the morning, before breakfast. Prior to the actual treatment, the patient is given general anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. Electrodes are then attached to the patient’s scalp and an electric current is applied which causes a brief convulsion. Minutes later, the patient awakens confused and without memory of events surrounding the treatment. This treatment is usually repeated three times a week for two to four weeks. The number of treatments varies from six to twelve. It is often recommended that the patient maintain a limited intake of medication, after the ECT treatments, to reduce the chance of relapse.
Electroconvulsive therapy is a very controversial issue.
Much of the controversy surrounding this topic revolves around its effectiveness vs. the side effects, and the recent increase in ECT as a quick and easy solution, instead of long-term psychotherapy or hospitalization. Because of the concern about permanent memory loss and confusion related to ECT treatment, some researchers recommend that the treatment only be used as a last resort. It is also unclear whether or not ECT is effective. However, other studies indicate that the relapse rate is high, even for patients who take medication after ECT. Some researchers insist that no study proves that ECT is effective for more than four weeks.
The side effects were also what strongly aided in helping me make my decision. The side effects are so much more than just memory loss. Common side effects include temporary short-term memory loss, nausea, muscle aches and headaches. The blood pressure and the heart rhythm may change. Some permanent side effects include circulatory insufficiency, tooth damage, vertebral fractures and skin burns.
In understanding what electroconvulsive therapy is I can conclude this treatment is not something I would be interested in.
Although this is only my individual decision it’s absolutely the patient’s decision after considering the advantages and disadvantages. ECT may have its positive effects on depression but it has too many negative effects on the body itself.
Electroconvulsive Therapy. (1999). [Online] National Institute of Mental
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