Electroconvulsive Therapy Improving Lives


People with severe depression who experience remission for up to six months after completing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) report an improvement in quality of life that is comparable to that of a mentally healthy person.

"If we can get you into remission, you get this big, big improvement in quality of life at six months such that our patients' quality of life is as good as that of the overall general population," explained Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

After reviewing quality of life surveys completed by more than 500 patients, they found that half went into remission after ECT and about 64 of them stayed in remission six months later. Their survey answers during that six-month time period compared favorably to that of healthy individuals in a control group.

Hoping to improve the numbers

The researchers hope to improve the numbers of those staying in remission. "We need to look at different drug treatments for patients to prevent relapse," said McCall. There is some evidence suggesting that ECT along with drug therapy produces better results. "The other possibility is that there are some people who seem to respond to nothing but ECT and will need booster ECT sessions to stay well."

The ideal candidate for ECT is someone who is severely depressed who has not responded to a variety of drug therapies. Over a lifetime, depressed people can do several rounds of ECT where the results will last for varying lengths. Therapy includes a short burst of controlled electricity to the brain via electrodes on the scalp. Anesthetic and muscle relaxers are used to keep the patient comfortable.

ECT improves mood, disposition and quality of life for many

"What I tell patients is that six months after this is over, my expectation is that you will be better off, not just in terms of your depression, I mean globally in your quality of life," McCall said. "The trick is going to be keeping you well so you do not slide back into depression. That is the biggest risk."

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Medical College at Georgia Regents University


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