Electroconvulsive Therapy FAQs

PHBH Sites & Services

PHBH Access

What is ECT?

ECT is a well researched, highly effective medical procedure that is used to provide rapid relief to individuals suffering with severe symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.  

Who should consider ECT?

Persons who should consider ECT are those with depression, particularly medication resistant depression, or who those who suffer from severe symptoms of other psychiatric conditions as recommended by their physician.

What is medication resistant depression?

A lack of therapeutic response to two or more courses of antidepressants.

Is ECT safe?

Yes, ECT is a very safe procedure.  During the treatment, an electrical current is briefly sent to the brain through electrodes placed on the front part of the patient’s head, such as the temples.   The patient is closely supervised throughout the entire procedure by an ECT physician, a Board Certified anesthesiologist and a specially trained Registered Nurse.  

Does the patient feel any discomfort during treatment?

No, the patient is given anesthesia prior to ECT and is unaware of the treatment as it is being administered.

Is ECT covered by Insurance?

Most insurances cover ECT.

Is ECT ever considered as a first line treatment?

In certain situations, ECT could be considered as a first line treatment option. The option of ECT can be offered at anytime in a patient’s treatment plan depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms.  

What is different about ECT now compared  to the past?

There are many differences in the way ECT is administered today compared to how it was done in the past.  As is the case with other medical procedures, ECT has greatly advanced over the years.

What are some of the other benefits of ECT?

Among other benefits, early treatment with ECT can result in a reduction in lost work time, a reduction in the need for hospitalization; reduced cost of medications, and a reduction in the number of side effects from multiple medications or having to take higher doses of medications in order to provide symptom relief.

What are the possible side effects of ECT?

Possible side effects include headache, body aches and short term memory loss.  These side effects are individual and not everyone will experience them.  Prolonged or long term memory losses with ECT are rare.

Is ECT appropriate for Patient’s with a Bipolar diagnosis?

ECT can be very effective in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder symptoms for certain patients.

Do I still see my regular outpatient psychiatrist?

If you are receiving outpatient ECT, you need to keep regular appointments with your psychiatrist so that he/she can assess progress and continue with medication management as an adjunct to your ECT.  We will send a report to your outpatient psychiatrist after each ECT treatment session.

Do I need to take time off of work during the ECT series?

During the series treatment, we suggest taking a leave from work.  This would be the same recommendation for most medical interventions such as hernia repair, carpal tunnel repair, etc. If a patient is demonstrating short term memory loss, we would also recommend cessation of driving until the patient’s memory returns.  We definitely recommend that the patient does not work and does not drive on the day of each ECT treatment.

How many treatments would be given?

Everyone is different and requires an individualized course of treatment.  Initially, ECT would be administered three times per week (typically every Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for approx 6 to 12 treatments.  The number of treatments is determined by the rate of improvement of the patient’s symptoms.  

What if I still have concerns regarding ECT?

Knowing the facts about ECT leads to having fewer misconceptions. We are happy to provide you with education and to answer any questions you may have.

For more information call Princeton House Behavioral Health ECT Suite at 609-497-2673. You may also email your questions to ljohnson@princetonhcs.org.