Teens Given Electroshock Treatment Showed Few Bad Effects
WebMD News Archive
"I have had inpatients who were fiercely, fiercely ill, who were less
than 20 years old, for whom ECT was necessary and who were helped by it,"
says Bodkin. "You cannot parent someone out of the need for ECT."
"This is the first good study that shows ECT in adolescents does not
cause long-term memory problems," says Martin Szuba, MD, assistant
professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the
ECT program for the university's health system.
"ECT is grossly underutilized in adolescents," Szuba says.
"Whether we like it or not, adolescents do develop severe depression and
they do kill themselves, and there should be another treatment to offer
them" beyond medications. "ECT can save lives."
Another physician had a more tepid response to the study. "They say that
two out of 10 had [memory] complaints. ... That's about what you would expect
in adults," says Mitchell S. Nobler, an assistant professor of clinical
psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "They
are trying to say that it is safe because they did not find impairment [of
their memories and thinking]."
But Nobler says that he would have preferred testing aimed at their recall
prior to the ECT, which is more commonly impaired after ECT. He also feels that
the researchers relied on the adolescents' recollection, which is not always
Cohen does make an important point, however. "In the article, we did not
include the school evaluation we did, because of space, but the ECT and non-ECT
groups had the same school evaluations. So they were able to continue their
educations [after the treatment]."
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), giving electrical shocks to the brain, is
a quick and effective way to treat patients with severe depression who do not
respond to medications.
- Adolescents who undergo the procedure do not experience any long-term
memory loss or brain damage, according to a new study from Paris.
- Some experts say that ECT is underutilized, and several states in this
country forbid the use of this therapy among adolescents.