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FDA May Ease Up on Electroshock Devices
Date:1/27/2011

the most part, ETC is used as a second or last resort treatment," she said.

Cortes noted that the treatment can result in some memory loss. "Some people experience spotty memory, some may be transient, some may be longer- lasting. Another common side effect is confusion right after coming out of the anesthetic, which usually resolves before the patient goes home," she said.

The treatment can be given in both in-hospital and as an outpatient therapy, Cortes said. On average, most patients undergo six to 12 sessions, she added.

Some patient's symptoms are completely resolved after treatment. These patients are encouraged to take antidepressants and also to participate in psychotherapy, Cortes added.

"Some don't require ECT again during their life and some require what we call maintenance ECT, which can be done every so often to avoid any recurrence of symptoms," she explained.

How ECT works isn't known. "The most widely accepted theory is that ECT releases large amounts of serotonin in the brain and that's what improves the depressive symptoms," Cortes said. Increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain is how most antidepressant drugs work, she noted.

Electroshock therapy is usually performed under general anesthesia. The procedure lasts about 40 seconds and involves the delivery of a small amount of electric current to the head, which causes seizure activity in the brain. The amount of electricity used has decreased since electroshock therapy was introduced in the 1930s, which has helped reduced the side effects, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the NIH, electroshock can be helpful for severely depressed patients who don't respond to depression medication or whose depression is accompanied by delusions or other psychotic symptoms. Severely depressed patients who are suicidal or pregnant also may be candidates for electroshock therapy.

Treatments cost $1,000 to $2,500 a session
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