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Overview of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for adults

Charles Kellner, MD
Section Editor
Peter P Roy-Byrne, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) uses a small electric current to produce a generalized cerebral seizure under general anesthesia. ECT is used mainly to treat severe depression, but is also indicated for patients with other conditions, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, catatonia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

There is no question about the efficacy and safety of ECT, which is practiced widely in the United States and the rest of the world [1]. Nevertheless, it remains controversial and stigmatized because of misinformation and outmoded perceptions about how the treatment is performed [2].

This topic provides an overview of ECT. The indications for and efficacy of ECT in unipolar major depression, technique for performing ECT, medical consultation for ECT, and indications for and efficacy of ECT in bipolar disorder are discussed separately.

(See "Unipolar major depression in adults: Indications for and efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)".)

(See "Technique for performing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in adults".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 24, 2016.
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