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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment, employed only when all other approaches have been tried, uses a carefully controlled electrical current to trigger a release of proteins and chemicals that enhance and repair brain pathways to improve symptoms. The treatment adjusts nature’s neurotransmitters affecting mood and behavior.

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One of the most effective treatments in psychiatry, ECT is endorsed by the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association. As many as 85 percent of patients experience positive results within a treatment or two. That makes ECT a valuable and effective first-line intervention in emergency situations, such as patients who may be actively suicidal, psychotic, nutritionally compromised or catatonic.

Advanced Technology in Experienced Hands

Rely on the extensive experience of our professional clinicians at Dominion Hospital to deliver effective treatment. You benefit from our years of experience and use of the latest ECT technology incorporating ultra-brief, low-voltage stimulation for gentle effects on memory, which allows us to deliver sustainable, long-term care. In addition to treatment of severe depression, ECT may be used for:

  • Major depressive disorder – Appearing as resistance to medication, less than optimal results, psychotic depression
  • Bipolar disorder – Displaying as acute and severe mania, delirious mania or rapid-cycling mania
  • Schizophrenia disorder – Appearing as catatonic schizophrenia or psychosis that resists treatment with medication
  • Schizoaffective disorder – Displaying as failure to respond to medication; acute depressive or manic symptoms occurring with psychosis

Initial Evaluation

Before the ECT procedure, you receive a psychiatric evaluation and a medical evaluation, including a physical examination, blood testing and an electrocardiogram (EKG). While very few medical conditions prohibit the use of ECT, if you have a pacemaker, high blood pressure, other cardiovascular conditions or diabetes, consult your cardiologist or internal medicine physician to ensure your condition is well controlled.

What to Expect

At Dominion Hospital, ECT is performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on your need. Under the guidance of a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist and a nurse, you receive a short-acting general anesthetic and a muscle relaxant to assure you’re asleep for the procedure that lasts only a few minutes. Usually, you’ll be fully awake 10 to 20 minutes after treatment.

Our Treatment Process

Your individual need and response to the procedure determines the number of ECT treatments recommended. Typically, you’ll come to the hospital two or three times a week and receive between four and 12 treatments per episode of care.

Potential Side Effects

Although considered one of the safest treatments, especially for medically fragile patients, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with limited tolerance for psychiatric medications, potential side effects of ECT may include:

  • Potential memory problems
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Muscle soreness
  • Nausea
  • Temporary heart rate irregularities
  • Rarely, damage to fragile teeth or death

Explore our programs for adult mental health, substance abuse and psychiatric illness (sometimes called dual diagnosis) and self-injurious behavior, as well as our Reflections Eating Disorder Treatment Center.

Learn more about electroconvulsive therapy and review mental health topics in our online Health Library.