Bipolar Disorder and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT or electroshock therapy, is a short-term treatment for hospitalized mood disorder patients who are suicidal, psychotic, or dangerous to others. It is effective in nearly 75% of patients.
In electroconvulsive therapy, an electric current is sent through the scalp to cause a brief seizure in the brain. ECT is one of the fastest ways to relieve symptoms in people who suffer from mania or severe depression. ECT is generally used only when medicines or other less invasive treatments prove to be unhelpful. It is also used when patients pose a severe threat to themselves or others and it is dangerous to wait until drugs can take effect.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder with distinct periods of extreme euphoria (mania) and sadness or hopelessness (depression). It's also known as manic depression or manic depressive disorder.
Bipolar disorder occurs with similar frequency in men and women. But there are some differences between the sexes in the way the condition is experienced.
For example, a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania. And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the condition...
Prior to ECT treatment, a person is given a muscle relaxant and put under general anesthesia. Electrodes are placed on the patient's scalp, and an electric current is applied that causes a brief seizure. Because the muscles are relaxed, the seizure will usually be limited to slight movement of the hands and feet. The patient is carefully monitored during the treatment. The patient awakens minutes later, does not remember the treatment or events surrounding the treatment, and may be briefly confused.
ECT is given up to three times a week for two to four weeks.
ECT is among the safest treatments for severe mood disorders, with most risks being related to the anesthesia. Short-term memory loss is a common side effect, although this usually goes away one to two weeks after treatment.
Other possible side effects of ECT include:
These effects may last from several hours to several days.
A third of people who have ECT report some memory loss, but this is usually limited to the time surrounding the treatment.