Friday, 23 March 2012

"Electric Shock" therapy explained!

I read an interesting very recent article explaining how scientists have just worked out how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) actually works in the brain. Even though it has provided a large proportion of patients with many benefits and helped to improve mood, nobody has known exactly how it works before now!

ECT is where the patient is anesthetised and given a controlled electric current through their brain. Their body may go into spasms, and can sometimes look a bit like they are having a fit. They are injected with a drug that prevents extreme muscle spasms so that there is reduced risk of them hurting themselves during the procedure.

ECT has been found to decrease the brain connections related to depression and cognitive functioning. This is why it can sometimes be dangerous to give ECT to very old people, and some patients can experience memory loss as a side effect after the treatment.

I spent a day on an ECT ward and found it to be very "conveyor belt" like, one patient went in, and when his treatment had finished he was moved along to the recovery ward and another was wheeled into the treatment room straight after. I think I saw 4 patients having ECT and I must admit it did make me feel a bit queasy! One of them twitched quite a bit and it was a bit shocking at first, but I got used to it eventually. It did not take them long to come round from the anaesthetic (about 30 mins after the ECT had finished) and then they had some breakfast and went home.

I would recommend trying to get some ECT ward experience if you are a student nurse as it is quite intriguing!

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