Where do you get ECT?
ECT is provided in private and public hospitals in Australia.
In New Zealand, all ECT is provided by the District Health Boards.
You may be an inpatient (where you are admitted to hospital for the night) or you may also have the procedure as an outpatient (where you can go home the same day).
What happens during ECT?
You will be put to sleep with a general anaesthetic and be given a medicine that relaxes your muscles.
When asleep, your psychiatrist will place two electrodes on your head and deliver a short electrical pulse that will induce a small seizure. You are asleep for 3-5 minutes and the seizure lasts 20-60 seconds. You will be asleep and unaware during the treatment.
You will then be moved to the recovery ward to wake up from the anaesthetic. The whole procedure takes around 20 to 30 minutes and if you are an outpatient at the hospital you will be able to go home the same day.
On average around 8-12 sessions of ECT are given in a treatment course, with a few days between sessions. You may need more or fewer sessions depending on your condition.
Who can give ECT?
Only approved psychiatrists with special training should give ECT.
All psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand follow strict regulations to ensure that ECT is performed safely. These regulations are contained in state Mental Health Acts and guidelines issued by Chief Psychiatrists and Health Departments.
How does ECT work?
The small electrical current increases the level of electrical activity in the brain leading to seizure. Current scientific evidence suggests that the seizure may rebalance the chemicals in the brain that cause depression and other mental illnesses.
Is ECT safe?
ECT is a very safe treatment.
The risks are similar to any minor medical procedure given under general anaesthetic.
Will ECT cure depression?
Around 60-70% of people who have ECT for depression say their symptoms clear completely. Up to 80% say they get some benefit.
However, there is a high chance that depression will come back in the weeks or months after a course of ECT.
Follow up medication, psychological treatment (talking therapy) and help for dealing with stress are essential in staying well.