New Shock Therapy Procedure Works With Fewer Side Effects
WebMD News Archive
All those who spoke with WebMD reiterated the need for equipment that would
allow high-intensity stimulation to the right side of the brain. A FDA
spokesperson tells WebMD that the Center for Devices and Radiological Health
has to review the relevant material and has no official response at this
In the first study, Harold A. Sackeim, PhD, and other investigators at the
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York compared the
effects of giving low, moderate, and high levels of shock to one side of
depressed patients' brains, and giving a moderate level of shock to both sides.
Depression and mental function were assessed before, immediately after, and two
months after the treatment. Cognitive tests included an evaluation of different
types of memory function, including the ability to remember events prior to
treatment and after treatment. Patients were monitored for relapse for a
About two-thirds of patients responded to the high-dosage treatments. These
response rates were about twice that as seen in the low-dosage and
moderate-dosage groups who received a shock to one side of the brain.
However, the high-intensity treatment to the right side of the brain
produced less severe and persistent bad side effects on learning and memory
than the treatments involving both sides of the brain. One week after
treatment, patients who received a shock to both sides of their brains were 71%
more likely to not remember facts about their lives that they had reported at
the beginning of treatment.
In the second study, W. Vaughn McCall, MD, MS, and colleagues found that the
best results were achieved through higher doses of electricity. "You need
to use relatively large doses," says McCall, who is with the departments of
psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine
in Winston-Salem, N.C. "But we also had more side effects" at those
levels, McCall tells WebMD.
McCall says that in 1990, the American Psychiatric Association's Task Force
on ECT suggested that a moderate dose of electricity to the right side of the
brain should be used. But doctors interpreted this to be a level that didn't
help "nearly as many people as would be expected."