Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy or “electroshocks” is a traditional therapeutic method that has been used since the 19th century in psychiatry. It should be noted that for the public opinion, electroconvulsive therapy is a controversial method burdened with many inaccuracies and fabrications.


The method works so that a electrode device is put on the patient's head and electric current is passed for a short period of time. This usually causes a brief seizure that temporarily "resets" the electrical signals of the brain and allows their changes. The result should be improvement of a variety of psychiatric disorders. Electroconvulsions are frequently performed repeatedly for better efficiency.


Electroconvulsive therapy is used in a variety of psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression and certain forms of schizophrenia.


The procedure is not performed in conscious patients and short-time general anesthesia is used. During the procedure, the patient sleeps and is ventilated by a CPR mask. Before the main procedure, the doctors administer substances decreasing the muscle tension (muscular relaxants). The film One flew over the cuckoo's nest made a very bad publicity of the electroconvulsive therapy, but this is really not the way how the electroconvulsions are performed in modern medicine.


The only complication is the necessity to perform the procedure in general anesthesia. Therefore, it should be done on empty stomach and an anesthesiologist should be present. After the procedure, temporary side effects may occur such as confusion, memory problems, nausea and vomiting. Serious, but rare, is an occurrence of an arrhythmia. Electroconvulsive therapy can not be performed in all patients. High risk of complications is in people with heart diseases, disorders of blood concentration of ions (e.g. hyperkalemia or hypokalemia) and with thyroid disorders, etc.


Electroconvulsive therapy is a quick, simple and painless method, which has successes in therapy of psychiatric diseases.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources