Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - Side effects
Are there side effects?
Like all treatments there are some side effects from ECT. There are short-term side effects and long-term side effects. Doctors must be cautious if you are:
- elderly, or
- under 18 years old.
This is because you may be more likely to get side effects.
Some side effects you may get right after treatment are:
- sore muscles,
- feeling sick,
- memory loss,
- issues with the heart and blood pressure,
- persistent seizure,
- laryngospasm – this is when muscles in your throat tighten which makes it harder to breath, and
- peripheral nerve palsy – this is nerve damage which affects movement of muscles.
A long-term side effect may be memory problems, such as:
- memory loss, or
- difficulty making new memories.
Researchers do not know if memory problems are because of ECT or long term mental illness.
Healthcare professionals will assess you before and after each session of ECT. This assessment will check if you have any side effects. If you have any serious side effects doctors should stop the treatment immediately.
Allergies to general anaesthetic
There is no evidence that having ECT is more dangerous that any other procedure needing a general anaesthetic. An anaesthetist will assess you and a doctor will explain the risks of general anaesthetic before they give you ECT.
Death or serious injury occurs in about 1 in 80,000 treatments. This is about the same as if you have an anaesthetic for dental treatment.
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