Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a highly effective treatment for a number of psychiatric conditions.

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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) | El Camino Health

Electroconvulsive Therapy

ECT is a procedure in which an electric current is passed through your brain briefly to create a controlled seizure. This therapy can relieve symptoms of severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions for which medications or other treatments haven’t been successful. For some, ECT can be lifesaving.

How ECT Works

ECT uses electrodes, attached to your scalp, to create electrical stimulation of the brain in order to induce a safe seizure, which can improve the symptoms of depression, mania and psychosis. A number of recent technological advances have improved safety and reduced the risk of side effects.

In order to receive ECT, you must undergo an initial psychiatric evaluation by a doctor to ensure the procedure is appropriate and safe for you. The team will help you obtain medical clearance for the treatment, because in some instances ECT may not be appropriate for people until medical problems are under better control. ECT cannot be used on anyone who has cochlear implants.

Typically, treatment begins with three sessions weekly for a month, followed by eight maintenance treatments over the following three months to maintain improvement. The initial evaluation and follow-up visits take place at the outpatient behavioral health offices, and treatments are performed at the Mountain View Hospital (El Camino Hospital).

To receive ECT treatment, you can be referred by your psychiatrist or by a psychiatric inpatient hospital. Our team will work closely with your psychiatrist to keep him or her involved. You can receive ECT while you’re admitted to the hospital or on an outpatient basis.

Specially Trained Staff

ECT is performed by a trained psychiatrist, with assistance from nurses and anesthesiologists who administer general anesthesia and provide close monitoring during the procedure. ECT is even safe enough for pregnant women when other treatments have been unsuccessful at managing symptoms of a serious psychiatric condition.

A nurse coordinator works closely with patients, their families and their psychiatrist and is available to answer questions and offer assistance throughout the treatment period.

For more information about ECT, visit ECT frequently asked questions. Or, you can call our nurse coordinator to learn more about the referral process or request printed materials be sent to you by mail.