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Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock therapy, is a safe and effective medical procedure that gives the brain electrical stimulation. ECT treats psychiatric disorders including depression, manic-depressive illness and schizophrenia.

ECT is between 60 and 90 percent effective in major depression. The exact mechanism of action is proposed to be stabilization of neuro chemicals and cell membranes in the brain.  Adults of nearly all ages can receive ECT treatment.

Indiana University Health receives the largest number of referrals for ECT treatment in central Indiana and gives patients access to the latest ECT technology. A highly skilled team of psychiatrists, anesthesiologists and nurses conduct the treatment. IU Health has more than doubled its number of treatments at its IU Health Methodist location since 2011, offering more than 1,800 treatments in 2016.

ECT treatment at IU Health begins only after a referral from a psychiatrist. The referral cannot come from a primary care physician, psychologist or nurse. The ECT department will fax a work up to the referring psychiatrist listing items which need to be completed.  Those results will need to be returned to the ECT Department and an IU Health psychiatrist will review the testing before accepting the patient. When a patient is accepted to begin ECT, it will be the responsibility of the referring psychiatric office to obtain insurance authorization, if it is required.

Note: Patients should check with their insurance provider that IU Health is in-network for ECT before scheduling the work up testing.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Electroconvulsive Therapy Treatment Information

Usually, ECT is considered after a person has tried several antidepressant medication trials and still has significant depressive symptoms. ECT is considered earlier and may be the first line of treatment in situations in which the patient is severely depressed, actively suicidal or not eating and drinking.

A majority of patients treated are outpatient. While inpatient care is given, ECT cannot be the only reason for admission.

You will receive comprehensive care when undergoing ECT treatment at IU Health. You will be provided with a comfortable, non-surgical setting for your treatment. You won’t be asked to change into a gown, and you’ll be provided a light breakfast after your session is complete.

ECT is given in the morning to patients on an empty stomach. The patient is asleep and electrodes are placed on his or her head. The patient does not feel any discomfort when the electrical stimulation is given. The patient wakes up in the recovery area 5 to 10 minutes after the procedure.

ECT is given in a series of treatments. Usually, it takes between 6 and 12 treatments before the benefits are observed. The treatment frequency is consecutively three times per week. A patient completes treatment after a sustained response is achieved. The patient then takes medication to help prevent a recurrence of the depressive symptoms.

Some individuals may be considered for a longer course of continuation ECT (Maintenance ECT). These patients may have relapsed previously after completing ECT or have had an extremely severe depressive episode. Maintenance ECT is typically given weekly for four treatments, then every other week for one month then monthly for two treatments. Maintenance ECT helps reduce the return of depressive symptoms. Of course, this schedule can be modified to meet the patient’s individual needs under the direction of their psychiatrist.

After the series of treatments are complete and the patient has recovered, follow-up therapy and psychiatrist appointments are very important to keep. This can include continuing prescribed medication and possibly maintenance ECT.

While the treatment can be given safely to adults of nearly all ages, there are some risks. These risks are particularly if the patient has significant medical concerns. To minimize those risks, you will receive a thorough medical clearance (work up) before beginning treatment. Please review side effects of ECT with your psychiatrist before treatment.


Electroconvulsive Therapy For Referring Physicians

A referral must come from a psychiatrist for electroconvulsive therapy at IU Health.

To refer a patient, a psychiatrist should call 317.962.8940. The referring psychiatrist will need to complete the outpatient work-up form available below. This includes a full psychiatric evaluation, complete history and physical, insurance information and several medical tests.

These items must be ordered, completed and returned by fax to the ECT department before a patient can receive ECT treatment. Results should be faxed to 317.963.5131.


Outpatient Work-Up, Maintenance Schedule and Mini-Maintenance Schedule