Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most rapid and effective treatment for severe depression, and is a highly effective treatment for other psychiatric conditions including mania, schizoaffective disorder, catatonic states (patient unable to move, respond or speak due to an emotional disorder) and acute schizophrenic exacerbations.
Administered in a specially equipped treatment area staffed by a specially trained ECT psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist and a nurse, the ECT procedure consists of a controlled electrical stimulus delivered to the patient while under general anesthesia, producing a convulsion. A typical initial course consists of a series of these procedures two to three times a week for several weeks.
Generally used in patients who have failed adequate trials of other therapies, ECT is occasionally an urgently indicated, even lifesaving, first-line intervention in particularly severe illness such as catatonic or suicidal presentations.
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