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Pros and cons of ECT.

AROUND 1000 people a year have ECT, according to a study carried out between 1996 and 1999 in Scotland by the Scottish ECT Audit Network, (SEAN).

Nearly three-quarters of those having it for depression showed a definite improvement.

Almost a fifth of patients were treated without their consent.

Dr James Hendry, a director of SEAN, said: "They would be unwilling or unable to give consent to treatment, with the vast majority being unable to because of their profound depression."

The shock, lasting three or four seconds to induce an epileptic fit lasting between 20 and 30 seconds, was usually given twice a week for six or 12 sessions.

However, some people needed only two or three treatments. The average number per course was 6.7.

Most treatments were carried out bilaterally - that is with electrodes on each temple.

Dr Hendry said: "I suspect we will see that changing. Research is continuing, but it looks increasingly that the most effective treatment is by unilateral, high-dose ECT, which seems to cause less memory loss."

For 54 patients - 4.1 per cent - treatment was stopped early because of side-effects. SEAN points out that between 28 and 31 per cent of patients stop taking anti-depressants because of side-effects.

There were two deaths among elderly patients from pre-existing heart disease within a week of having ECT. One patient committed suicide.

SEAN did not record other side-effects. However, other studies have reported headache and nausea in between 1.2 per cent and 23 per cent of patients.

Problems with short-term memory affect around 60 to 70 per cent of patients for a few weeks after a course of ECT.

A small number of patients lose memories from their past which do not return even after many years.

However, depression itself can affect memory, concentration and mental agility.

Dr Hendry said: "ECT is not without its adverse effects, but in some cases, it is a life-saving treatment for people with severe forms of mental illness, particularly depression.

"It can be effective for patients who have not responded to any other treatment."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 25, 2001
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