CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Electroconvulsive therapy, or shock treatment, is the most effective therapy for severe depression, say U.S. clinicians.
Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, explained that ECT consists of passing an electrical current through the brain to induce a seizure that affects brain pathways, nerve receptors, neurotransmitters and the endocrine system.
"ECT continues to restore the health and sometimes save the lives of people with the potentially lethal disorders of severe depression, mania, and acute psychosis. For the patients who suffer most with mood symptoms, nothing better than ECT has been devised," Miller said. "That is the most important reason for its survival through doubts, fears, and political controversy."
He said fears of misuse have led to efforts to restrict or abolish ECT, which would not be in the best interest of a subset of patients who benefit greatly from the treatment.
The most common side effect of the treatment is memory loss (the ability to recall earlier events and absorb and retain new knowledge), which usually lasts only a few weeks.
Research suggests placing both electrodes on the same side of the head, using intermittent pulses instead of continuous stimulation and lowering the amperage can greatly reduce this problem.
The report is published in the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.