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The truth about ECT (video)

By The Health News Team, Dr. Brian Miller and Dr. Fadi Nicolas | August 23, 2021

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may have a dramatic history — with scary depictions in film and television — but today it’s considered one of the safest and most effective treatments for severe depression and other mental health issues.

“It’s a treatment that’s been portrayed in the media with lots of drama, and there is fear that goes along with it,” says Dr. Brian Miller, a psychiatrist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “But modern-day ECT has been practiced with general anesthesia, muscle relaxants and supplemental oxygen for 50 or 60 years in the U.S. It’s currently a very safe and very well-tolerated procedure.”

ECT is provided at both Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. The procedure involves carefully applying brief electrical stimulation to the scalp in order to induce a safe seizure in the brain. The seizure typically lasts 30 to 60 seconds.

An FDA-approved medical treatment, ECT causes changes in brain chemistry that can rapidly reverse symptoms of severe mental health conditions, particularly severe and persistent disorders that have not improved with medications. ECT has been shown to improve symptoms in about 80% of participating patients.

“In my experience, the more severe the symptoms of the patient, the more benefit we see with ECT,” says Dr. Fadi Nicolas, chief medical officer of Sharp Behavioral Health Services.

Watch the video and learn more about ECT and other mental health outpatient programs at Sharp.

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