A Safe & Effective Treatment

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is among the safest and most effective treatments available for depression. During ECT, electrodes are placed on the patient’s scalp and an electrical current is passed through the brain, triggering a brief seizure. This is a simple and generally well tolerated therapy that has been used in the US since the 1940s.

Misconceptions About ECT

There are persistent misconceptions about ECT based on early treatments in which much higher doses of electricity were used and patients were not anesthetized, which led to significant memory loss, fractured bones, and other serious side effects. Many procedure risks and side effects were related to the misuse of equipment, incorrect administration, and improperly trained staff. The way we perform ECT today is much safer and more effective. 

All patients are under general anesthesia and monitored closely by an anesthesiologist and a psychiatrist. Although ECT still has some potential side effects, we now use smaller amounts of electricity in a very controlled setting to achieve the most benefit with the fewest possible risks. Your doctor will describe all the details during your assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an ECT series work?

A series of ECT consists of approximately 8–12 treatments. Treatments are done three times a week for about five weeks. During this time, patients cannot work, drive, or operate machinery. Companionship is required 24 hours due to the possible confusion during treatment. Depending on current medications, patients may have to stop some medications two to five days prior to ECT.

Following a series, some patients find it useful or necessary to continue with periodic maintenance treatments in order to maintain the benefits of ECT. Maintenance treatments may be spaced anywhere from once a week to a few times a year, depending on the individual.

Who is a candidate for ECT?

ECT may benefit individuals with certain mental health disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorders. ECT is often an option for patients who do not see improvements with other treatments such as medications and psychotherapy. ECT is used during pregnancy, when medications can't be taken because they might harm the developing fetus and often used in older adults who can't tolerate the drug side effects.

Are there side effects from ECT?

Confusion - Patients may experience a period of confusion that can last from a few minutes to several hours. Patients may be able to return to normal activities right away, or they may need to rest for several hours after treatment. Rarely, confusion may last several days or longer. Confusion is generally more noticeable in older adults.

Memory loss - ECT can affect memory in several ways; patients may have trouble remembering events that occurred before treatment began. It may be hard to remember things in the weeks or months leading up to treatment. Patients may also have trouble recalling events that occurred during the weeks of their treatment. And some people have trouble with memory of events that occur even after ECT has stopped. These memory problems usually improve within a couple of months.

Physical side effects - On the days a patient has an ECT treatment, they may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, jaw pain, muscle ache or muscle spasms. These are generally side effects of the anesthesia being administered but can be treated with medications.

Medical complications - As with any type of medical procedure, especially one that involves anesthesia, there are risks of medical complications.

What can I expect the day of my treatment?

Because general anesthesia is used for ECT, no food can be eaten for eight hours prior to treatment. No gum, candy, smoking for six hours prior. Water is okay up to four hours before treatment.

Upon arrival at the clinic the patient will be greeted and checked in by one of our office staff. A nurse will meet with them to review medications and place an IV. Patients may receive a shot of Robinul at this time, which dries up secretions making anesthesia safer.

During treatment, a small amount of electrical current is passed though the brain triggering a brief therapeutic seizure. When treatment is complete, the patient will be wheeled into the recovery room, where they will wake up within a few minutes while being monitored by a nurse. Patients are typically in the recovery room for 20–40 minutes prior to being discharged.

What is the cost?

ECT is covered by most insurance companies. Coverage for ECT is based on medical necessity. Preauthorization might be requested by your insurance company. The amount covered varies depending on the insurance company. We have an insurance specialist in our office who will come to an agreement with the insurance company regarding coverage prior to treatment beginning. Copays for ECT are typically higher than a regular office visit, but vary depending on the insurance coverage.

 If insurance does not cover ECT we do have a self-pay rate for each treatment. For more information about insurance coverage and financial responsibility please contact our office.

Maryrose P. Bauschka, MD

Maryrose Bauschka, M.D., Instructor (Clinical), earned her medical degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.  She completed her adult psychiatry residency at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Affiliated Hospitals.  Her interests include education of medical students and trainees, research opportuni... Read More

Specialties:

Adult Behavioral Health, Mood Disorders, Psychiatry

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Lowry A. Bushnell, MD

Dr. Lowry Bushnell was born and raised in Utah. Following completion of his military service he attended the University of Utah, College of Pharmacy, receiving a degree in medical biology. He has a specialty interest in psychopharmacology. He received his medical training at the University of Utah, College of Medicine and his psychiatry specialty t... Read More

Specialties:

Adult Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Neuromodulation

Locations:

University Neuropsychiatric Institute 801-587-3297

Laura Gilley, MD

Dr. Laura Gilley practices as an inpatient child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Univeristy of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). She is board certified in Adult Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. She is a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.She has bee... Read More

Brian J. Mickey, MD, PhD

Brian J. Mickey is Associate Professor of Psychiatry.  He studied physics and biology at the University of Washington, Seattle.  He then completed the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he earned his MD and PhD in Neuroscience.  After psychiatry residency and postdoctoral fellowship at the Molecular &... Read More

Kristen L. Pagel, MPH, MD

Kristen Pagel, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor (Clinical), earned her public health degree in epidemiology from the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles and her medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, CA.  She completed her General Psychiatry residency at Loma Linda - Inland Em... Read More

Specialties:

Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Mood Disorders, Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Duy Pham, MD

Dr. Pham specializes in addiction and substance abuse related issues. He is currently an inpatient and outpatient physician at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) and supervises adult psychiatry residents through the Recovery Center at UNI. He is an advisor/mentor to the medical students and residents. As an Addiction Psychiatrist Dr. ... Read More

Matthew Pierson, MD

Dr. Matthew Pierson is a child and adolescent inpatient hospitalist at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI).... Read More

Specialties:

Adult Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Neuromodulation

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Specialties:

ADHD, Adult Behavioral Health, Adult Behavioral Health - Outpatient, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mood Disorders, Physician Assistant, Psychiatry, Schizophrenia

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Howard R. Weeks, MD

Dr. Weeks graduated from the "Triple Board" Program here at the University of Utah. He is trained in child & adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry and pediatrics as well as clinical informatics.  He is the Associate Chief Medical Information Officer for University Health.Since joining the University faculty in 2002, he has been active in many of ... Read More

Kamile M. Weischedel, MD

Dr. Kamile Melek Weischedel, Assistant Professor (Clinical), earned her MD at Istanbul University. She then spent 2.5 years in psychiatry residency in her home country before she moved to the United States. She worked as a postdoc research associate at Yale University before joining University of Utah Department of Psychiatry to complete her reside... Read More

University Neuropsychiatric Institute 501 Chipeta Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
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