ECT Services Program
ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is a safe and effective treatment for a number of mental illnesses and is indispensable when other treatments have failed. It has been in use for over 60 years, and over that time doctors have learned a great deal about how and when to use it safely and beneficially with the fewest possible side effects. It is mainly used to treat disorders of mood, such as Major Depression and Bipolar Affective Disorder (manic-depressive illness). It remains the most reliable treatment for depression and mania that do not respond to other interventions. It also often controls the hallucinations and unusual, false beliefs that sometimes accompany severe mental illness. In some cases the treatment may be recommended and beneficial for other severe and treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders.
Patients may be admitted to the inpatient unit prior to starting ECT though this is not required. Thus, the entire course of treatment may be received as an outpatient. Normally about twelve treatments are given over the course of a month. We take steps (e.g. minimal and briefest effective stimulus, one-sided application (‘unilateral’)) to minimize the memory loss that can occur during the treatment period. Most people are able to return to work prior to completing the treatment course. Treatments are given in the recovery room (where patients go after major surgery) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital . Patients receive a short-acting drug to put them to sleep followed by a powerful short acting muscle-relaxing drug. The treatment itself takes less than a minute, and within 5 to 10 minutes, the patient wakes up, and after another one to two hours can go home with an escort. Prior to receiving ECT, patients must meet with one of the physicians on the ECT service who will keep in close contact with the referring physician.
Information about the Service can be obtained by clicking here or by calling 312-695-5060.