How Long Will I Need To Do Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), And What Is Maintenance ECT?

Dr. McDonald answers the question: 'What Is Maintenance Shock Therapy?'

ByWilliam McDonald, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, The Emory Clinic
February 27, 2008, 4:35 PM

— -- Question: How long will I need to do electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and what is maintenance ECT?

Answer: ECT is usually given two or three times a week -- usually on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Typically the ECT treatment course lasts eight to 12 treatments -- sometimes as few as six, sometimes as many as 15 treatments can occur in a course.

Your doctor will determine how many you need depending on your response.

After patients have received a course of ECT they're usually placed back on medication. However patients given medication after ECT have about a 50/50 chance of relapsing or having another episode of depression. Usually this episode occurs within one to three months after ECT -- but it can occur within the six months after ECT.

For patients who relapse continually after an acute course of ECT, those patients can be placed on maintenance ECT. Maintenance ECT involves getting treatments every two weeks to every month, usually for a period of six months to a year.

But patients have gone on maintenance ECT for up to three years, depending on their response.

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