- ECT involves the use of an electrical stimulus to trigger a grand mal seizure in the brain. It is performed under general anesthesia, with muscle relaxants used to block the seizure’s physical manifestations. In one study, half of ECT patients surveyed considered going to the dentist worse than getting ECT.
- Approximately 100,000 Americans get ECT every year; about 1.5% of these patients are under 18 years of age. This is largely due to the fact that the disorders for which ECT is indicated often don’t emerge until later in life.
- Since it was first administered to children in the 1940s, no child has ever died from ECT. More than 200 children, however, died between 2000-2006 due to reactions to antipsychotics, the most common class of medications prescribed to control aggressive and self-injurious behavior. Thousands more experienced severe side effects.
- ECT is a heavily researched treatment, with over 10,000 articles referenced on PubMed by scientists from all over the world.
- Treatment refractory depression is the most common indication for ECT, with remission rates of approximately 80% – medications, by contrast, have remission rates of 30% or lower.
- ECT has also been successfully used to treat bipolar disorder, catatonia, schizophrenia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and status epilepticus (a state in which the brain will not stop seizing).
- Side effects of ECT may include headache, nausea, and short-term memory loss. Studies from the U.S., France, Japan and Spain that specifically examined cognitive effects on adolescents given ECT all found no evidence of long-term cognitive impairment.