Electroconvulsive Therapy

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Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment most commonly used in people with severe major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia that has not responded to other treatments.

ECT involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while you are under anesthesia. It is typically administered by a team that includes a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist, and a specially trained nurse or physician assistant.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health recognize the use of ECT. Although the procedure can be very effective for many individuals with serious mental illness, it is not a cure. To prevent a return of the illness, most people continue psychotherapy and/or medication, or in some circumstances, ongoing ECT treatments.

How ECT is Performed

Before beginning a series of ECT treatments, you will need to have a medical exam, lab work, and a psychiatric assessment.

Prior to each ECT treatment, you are given a muscle relaxant and general anesthesia. Electrodes are placed on your scalp, and a finely controlled electric current is applied. These pulses cause a brief seizure in your brain.

You are carefully monitored during treatment. Because your muscles are relaxed, the visible effects of the seizure are usually limited to slight movement of your hands and feet. You wake up minutes later, and often do not remember the treatment or events surrounding it.

ECT treatments are typically given two or three times a week, for a total of six to 12 treatments, depending on the severity of symptoms and how you respond to the treatment.

Most insurance plans offering coverage for psychiatric disorders at least partially reimburse the cost of ECT.

For more information or to make a referral, call 609-914-6402.

Behavioral Health at Virtua 

At Virtua, we provide a continuum of behavioral health services for people of all ages at our campuses in Burlington and Camden counties. Learn more about our behavioral health programs.

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