Electroconvulsive Therapy - Essay Example

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The power "Electroconvulsive Therapy" describes that electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is a method of induction of epileptic fits by passing electrical current through the brain. The use of ECT for affective disorders and untreatable severe depression gained momentum in the 1960s…
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Electroconvulsive Therapy
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Electroconvulsive Therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is a method of induction of epileptic fits by passing electrical current through the brain.
The history of ECT has its origins in the discovery of the generation of electrical waves by the brain which was demonstrated by Richard Caton in the early years of the nineteenth century (ECTonLine, 2008). This demonstration was done in dog brains. A few years later, the similar effect was demonstrated in the human brains by Hans Berger (ECTonLine, 2008). In 1938, ECT was initiated by Italian neurologist Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini in Rome. Its use spread in the form of treatment in the 1940s and 1950s. Ugo who was convinced that Metrazol- induced convulsions were useful in schizophrenia but dangerous too, opted to induce convulsions by passing electric shock through the head. The use of ECT for affective disorders and untreatable severe depression gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s (Sabbatini, n.d.).
However, towards the end of 19th century, this form of therapy lost its importance due to the advent of more powerful anti-psychotics and antidepressants (RCP, 2008). Currently, its use is limited to severe mania, catatonia, and unresponsive major depression. It has no role in the general treatment of schizophrenia. It is offered in situations where medications have had no effects, or the side effects of antidepressants are very severe or when the patient's life is threatened due to decreased intake of food and water or due to attempting to suicide. There is no clear-cut understanding as to how ECT works. Research has shown that release of certain brain chemicals and stimulation of growth of new blood vessel in certain areas of the brain probably helps the improvement of the condition of the patient (RCP, 2008).
ECT is given in a hospital setting in special set rooms called 'ECT Suite'. The current is delivered to the brain of a patient in a controlled way using a special ECT machine. The patient is given an anesthetic so that he is not conscious during the procedure. A muscle relaxant is also given to prevent serious injuries due to muscle spasms. The duration of seizures aimed at is 20 to 50 seconds long. If the current is passed across the whole brain, it is known as bilateral ECT. If it is passed across one side, it is unilateral. A patient will need on average 6 to 8 treatments to complete a course (RCP, 2008)
The procedure of giving ECT involves several weeks. The patient develops several epileptic seizures and receives many anesthetics. There are many side effects for this treatment. Short-term side effects include a headache, muscle ache, feeling of muzzy headedness, feeling sick, distress and feeling fearful. However, most patients can tide over this form of therapy with support from nursing staff, light refreshment, and painkillers. In older patients, confusion can occur. There is the small risk of death of 1 in 50,000 cases. the main impact of ECT is long term. The most important long-term side effects are memory problems. Memories return in most of the cases when the course has finished and a few weeks have passed by (RCP, 2008).
ECT is unlikely to help mild and moderate depression. When given in severe depression resolution of symptoms can be noticed if the therapy has worked.
ECTonLine. (2008). Some History of ECT. Retrieved on 24th Feb 2009
Sabbatini, R.M.E. (n.d.). The History of Shock Therapy in Psychiatry. Retrieved on 24th Feb 2009 from
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP). (2008). Electroconvulsive Therapy. Retrieved on 24th Feb 2009 from Read More
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