Q. Is shock therapy a safe treatment for depression?

Answered by
Dr. Ramchandra Lamba
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Aug 05, 2017 and last reviewed on: Aug 25, 2022

Hello doctor,

My 48-year-old mother is probably suffering from recurrent unipolar depression as per the treatment that the local psychiatrist is giving. It seems that the medicines are not working this time. She is not able to get up from the bed and does not feel like doing anything, even her daily routine work. She has been taking Tritin 20 mg to 60 mg for the last five years. The doctor now recommends ECT after trying different medicine combinations over the last four months. She got into a similar situation five years ago but recovered with medicines. I want a second opinion regarding the same.



Welcome to

As your mother is suffering from treatment-resistant depression, she is not responding to multiple drugs. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is a good treatment modality with very few side effects if administrated properly. Also, there are unlikely any long-term side effects of this.

Now, considering the situation, ECT is a good option for your mother. Also, the results of ECT are faster compared to antidepressants. ECT is also effective when drugs fail, and it is most valuable when the person is suffering from severe depression and also has suicidal thoughts.

So, you should not hesitate because it is a good modality for treatment-resistant depression.

Thank you doctor,

Can you please explain in detail what you mean by 'if administrated properly'? Is there anything specific we need to take care of? Should it be done in a big city? In my town, there is only one center where ECT is done. Also, can you please give more details about the probable side effects and what kind of precautions should be taken by us, for the patient, as a family?



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It means that proper pre-anesthetic care has been taken like:

1. The patient should be on overnight fasting.2. The pre-anesthetic drugs are used under the supervision of an anesthetist.3. The general physical condition of the patient is good.4. There is no contradiction in the use of anesthetic agents.

Generally, ECT is quite safe, and minor side effects like post-ECT headache and muscle pain will be there that are easily manageable. Major side effects like post ECT confusion and memory loss for the time around which the ECT was given are rare. However, permanent memory loss does not occur.

Death can occur as a very rare side effect, the incidence of which is around one in a hundred thousand, which is more favorable than the risk associated with anesthesia used for other surgical procedures and childbirth.

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