Teens Given Electroshock Treatment Showed Few Bad Effects
WebMD News Archive
David Cohen, MD, the lead researcher, tells WebMD he was not surprised by
the findings because they mimic studies in adults that also found few lingering
effects on the brain after ECT. "We had an idea it should be like in
adults. Adults usually do [retain] their memory. Sometimes they have spotty
memory losses from the period immediately after the ECT." Cohen is chief of
the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Groupe Hospitalier
Pitiè-Salpètrière in Paris.
Cohen says fears about the use of ECT in youth "are not justified"
and that some misunderstanding of the procedure comes from a lack of
recognition of the severity of patients' illnesses. When it is used
appropriately, the benefits are enormous, Cohen says. "When ECT works it is
unbelievable; it is like a miracle. Most of them, they were like zombies before
the treatment. Usually what they can do after the ECT is what they could do
before they became ill."
He adds that in France, there are no restrictions on who can receive the
treatments, in contrast to the U.S. Several states forbid the use of ECT for
people under age 18.
"This is a problem, because I know of some extreme cases where patients
should have had ECT and could not," Cohen says.
Several psychiatrists who reviewed the study for WebMD said it was
instructive and well done. The study indicates that most of the time, the most
effective treatment for the most severe form of depression is safe and does not
cause brain damage, according to Alec Bodkin, MD, an assistant professor of
psychiatry at Harvard School of Medicine. "It is important to be sure that
the intuitively obvious thing is the case, which is that this is at
least as safe in adolescents as in adults." Bodkin is also affiliated with
McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Bodkin notes that the small study size indicates that in France, as well as
in the U.S., ECT is underutilized in teens as well as adults. "ECT should
be used more readily than it is. It works much more quickly and often more
effectively than medications," says Bodkin. He adds that the procedure can
be especially beneficial to teens, who often do not take their medications.