Electroconvulsive Therapy:Beneficial For Treating Depression Which Is Resistant to Treatment
Among the thousands of people who suffer from depression, some develop depression which is resistant and does not respond to the traditional methods of treatment. The medical fraternity considers it as a serious mental disorder which can only be managed by electroconvulsive therapy [ECT].
ECT is considered only after the patient has not responded to other treatments which may have been provided or alternatively in circumstances where a rapid response to the condition is needed from the patient, especially with the ones who are prone to suicides and catatonia. Let’s have a look at why ECT is utilized, how ECT works, and the side effects which may be felt by the patient.
When Is Electroconvulsive Therapy Recommended to Patients?
Patients who are displaying signs of severe depression which is not responding to treatment or may have other mental disorders that are medically diagnosed including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are often recommended electroconvulsive therapy as a method of dealing with the problem quickly and effectively. It may also be used in circumstances which may be life-threatening for the patient and when he or she is unable to move or is not responding to people around them, has become malnourished because of the severe depression or is suicidal.
Electroconvulsive therapy can be an effective method for reducing the chances of a relapse, especially when patients are required to undergo further treatments. Electroconvulsive therapy has a couple of advantages over medications because it begins to work faster and the patient often responds by the end of the first week. Older individuals display even faster results. It is perhaps the reason why doctors recommend ECT when other methods for improving the condition of the patient have failed.
How Does Electroconvulsive Therapy Function?
Electroconvulsive therapy is not a medication which can be taken by the patient and needs to be administered by a professional team of physicians and nurses including an anesthesiologist. The administration of ECT begins with the patient being sedated by a general anesthetic and also given a muscle relaxant in order to prevent movement during the procedure. The breathing of the patient, blood pressure, heart rate, are constantly monitored by the anesthesiologist for the duration of the procedure. When the procedure begins:
- The patient will have electrodes placed in precise locations on the head.
- The electrodes help the professional team to pass an electric current through the brain to cause a seizure which lasts for less than a minute. The patient does not feel the electrical impulses or pain because he or she is administered anesthesia and has also been provided with a muscle relaxant.
- The patient awakes about 5 to 10 minutes after the procedure is completed and may feel groggy initially until the anesthesia wears off. It will take about an hour for the patient to become fully alert and resume normal activities.
Electroconvulsive therapy needs to be administered about three times a week until the condition of the patient improves. The patient needs to undergo the therapy for about 6 to 12 treatments depending on the severity of the depression. After the initial treatment has been completed, patients may need maintenance of the ECT to eliminate any chances for the symptoms to return.
The maintenance of ECT will differ and depend on the needs of the individual and may be needed once a week or once in a few months. Patients that are undergoing electroconvulsive therapy will also be recommended antidepressants and medication to stabilize their mood.
Side Effects Of Electroconvulsive Therapy
It is common for medications and treatments to bring along a set of side effects and ECT is no exception to this rule. The most common side effects associated with this treatment include headaches, stomach upset, loss of memory and pain in the muscles. Some patients may experience problems with their memory, particularly around the time of the treatment. The memory problems can be severe at times, but generally improve during the days and weeks after the electroconvulsive therapy is completed.
Research is available to show that memory problems are generally associated with the traditional variety of electroconvulsive therapy when electrodes are placed on both sides of the patient’s head. When the electrodes are positioned on just one side of the head ECT, is unlikely to cause any problems with the memory and has, therefore, become the preferred method of electroconvulsive therapy which should be administered by medical professionals for their patients.
Electroconvulsive therapy is another method of treating conditions of depression which are resistant to traditional medications and can, therefore, be considered as absolutely safe by patients and their families.
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