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Electroconvulsive Therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy also called ECT (some times called electric shock treatment) is a form of treatment which has been in use for many years. There have been misunderstandings and controversies about this treatment.
The treatment involves giving very short duration of well measured electrical current delivered by a special machine when patient is unconscious (under the effect of general anaesthesia). This results in 10 to 30 seconds epileptic type of fit.
The treatment is given by a trained psychiatrist after an anaesthetist gives a short acting anaesthetic medication.
Research shows that ECT is an effective form of treatment in depression and results in quicker onset of recovery. As there now effective antidepressant medications with less side effects are available use of ECT is restricted to depressive illness which requires quicker recovery (for example where there is a high risk of suicide or self neglect, dehydration), resistant depression or where medications cannot be used due to physical health problems. It is particularly effective in psychotic depression.
It is also effective in treatment of mania but is infrequently used when patient does not respond to medications.
ECT has its adverse effects. Immediately after ECT patient can get confusion, headache pains and aches. Patient can have some short term memory problems for a few months after the completion of course of ECT. Loss of memory for events in past occurs in a small number of patients. Experience of memory problems in depression is fairly common and sometimes very troublesome symptom and it is difficult to separate memory problems caused by ECT from that of depression.
The ECT techniques and method has improved a great deal in last  years thus now ECT causes much less side effects. Its use has decreased in last 15 years.


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