What are the steps involved when getting ECT?
Before beginning a series of ECT treatments, a patient should receive a thorough psychiatric assessment, including a medical examination and sometimes a basic blood test and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check heart health.
Informed consent is another important part of the process. A patient must provide written informed consent before ECT is administered. In situations where a person is too ill to make decisions for him or herself, the consent process is governed by state law (for example, a court-appointed guardian).
Patients and their families should discuss all options for treatment with the psychiatrist before making a specific treatment decision. They should be provided with sufficient information to fully understand the procedure and the potential benefits, risks, and side effects of each treatment option before providing written consent.
A patient typically receives ECT two or three times a week for a total of six to 12 treatments, depending on the severity of symptoms and how quickly the symptoms respond to the treatment.
At the time of each treatment a patient is given general anesthesia and a muscle relaxant and electrodes are attached to the scalp at precise locations. The patient's brain is stimulated with a brief controlled series of electrical pulses. This causes a seizure within the brain that lasts for approximately a minute. The patient is asleep for the procedure and awakens after 5-10 minutes, much as from minor surgery.
Most insurance plans offering coverage for psychiatric disorders at least partially reimburse the cost of ECT.