Institute of Psychiatry Exterior

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression affects 15 million American adults each year, an estimated five to eight percent of the adult population. Most patients treated with antidepressants for depression do well. Unfortunately, there is a significant minority of people, who will either fail to respond or who will have only a temporary or partial response. Some patients who have been treated with multiple anti-depressants are still severely depressed.

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, has been an effective procedure for many treatment-resistant mood disorder patients. At MUSC Health, clinicians have access to the latest equipment and are using the most effective evidence-based treatments. This not only improves success rates; but these treatments reduce some of the undesirable side effects associated with classic ECT, such as short-term memory loss or headaches.

Modern Innovations in ECT

Modern ECT has advanced so that treatment is extremely safe and well tolerated. Patients are under anesthesia. A muscle relaxant called succinylcholine is administered to completely relax muscles. Soft electrode patches are placed on the face and temple. A new form of ECT finds the specific brain dose for each person and applies it in briefer and more focused areas of the brain involved with depression. The procedure lasts for a few minutes. Patients are awakened and are generally able to go home within an hour.

Patients typically receive about ten treatments spaced out over a period of three to four weeks. Some patients return for maintenance treatments. These might be one per week, or one per month, or as infrequent as once per year.

All patients respond differently. Yet on average, at least 50% of even severely depressed patients show improvement.

Treatment Studies

We continue with clinical research treatment studies to refine further and improve the treatments for the future. Please reach out if you are interested in participating or let us know in consultation.