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Electroconvulsive Therapy


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment that sends an electric current to your brain to cause a seizure. The seizure affects the chemicals in your brain, which may make your brain cells work better. ECT is used to treat certain conditions, such as depression, that do not get better after medicines or other therapies have been tried.


The week before your treatment:

  • Arrange for someone to drive you to and from your treatment.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all your allergies. Include medicines, antibiotics, and contrast liquid.
  • You may need to have blood tests, x-rays, an ECG, or other tests. Brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI may also be done. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • You may need blood tests, x-rays, a CT scan, or MRI. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The night before your treatment:

You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight.

The day of your treatment:

  • Take only the medicines you were told to take.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep during the treatment. You will also be given medicine to relax your muscles. Electrodes will be placed on your head. An electric current will be sent to your brain to trigger a seizure. The seizure usually lasts for 35 to 80 seconds. Your body may move very little, or not at all, during the seizure. Healthcare providers monitor you closely and record how long your seizure lasts. You will wake up 5 to 10 minutes after the treatment.

After your treatment:

You will be taken to a room where you can rest. Healthcare providers will watch you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When they see that you are okay, you may be allowed to go home or taken to your hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to your treatment on time.
  • Your skin is itchy and swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about the treatment.


You may be confused or have trouble remembering things. You may have nausea, vomiting, a headache, or muscle aches. Your blood pressure may increase, or your heart rhythm may change. You may need more than one session. ECT may not improve your symptoms.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.