beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Services

During the ECT procedure, a psychiatrist sends a small amount of electrical current to the patient's brain. The current triggers a seizure that affects the entire brain, including the areas that control mood, thinking, sleep and appetite. Repeated treatments reconfigure the brain's chemical messages and offer patients new hope for recovery from life-threatening depression and other mental illnesses. ECT can be offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the patient's needs.

Patients Appropriate for Referral:

  • Severely depressed patients who require a rapidly effective intervention.
  • Patients who have demonstrated a resistance to other treatments
  • People who, due to their medical conditions or other reasons such as pregnancy, cannot take recommended antidepressant medication because of potential side effects
  • Patients with acute forms of schizophrenic decompensation in the context of a time-limited stressor, such as the loss of a loved one
  • People with lethal catatonia, a "final-common-pathway" disorder marked by extreme rigidity, which can lead to muscle breakdown, acute renal failure and death
  • Individuals with a variety of other conditions, such as Parkinson's disease with significant rigidity and neuroleptic malignant syndrome

During the treatment, the patient receives a short course of general anesthesia, lasting a few minutes. The patient is closely monitored during this period. There is no standard number of treatments; however, they generally average three per week. The course of ECT continues until the patient is evidencing improvements or it has been determined the patient is not benefiting from the treatment. Generally, patients receive between 8-13 treatments.

To make a referral, please call Kerry Bloomingdale, MD, at 617-667-4728.

Contact Information

ECT Services
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-4728