Question: What does the procedure of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involve and what kinds of doctors perform it?
Answer: ECT is given in a hospital -- sometimes in an ECT suite specifically designed for the treatments, and sometimes in an annex to the operating room. Prior to the treatments, psychiatrists will meet with a patient and discuss the risk and the benefits.
On the day of the treatment, the patient will come in that morning and have an IV inserted into their vein -- and that IV is where the anesthesiologist will deliver the medications. When they go into the treatment room there'll be an anesthesiologist, a psychiatrist, and a nurse. The anesthesiologist will deliver the medication into the patient's IV and put the patient to sleep.
Once the patient's asleep the psychiatrist will then give a brief pulse of energy which will then cause a seizure which will last 30 to 60 seconds. This will all occur while the patient's asleep and the patient will also receive some muscle relaxant, so the patient actually doesn't really move during the treatment. The anesthesiologist will be giving medications in the IV to make sure the patient's relaxed and comfortable and asleep.
After the treatment, the patient will wake up -- usually in about five minutes, they'll go into the recovery room, and in about 30 minutes they'll be fully awake and alert and then be ready to go home or back to the ward. Some older patients may take a while longer to wake up whereas younger patients recover a little bit quicker.