History of electroconvulsive therapy in the United Kingdom

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, in the past sometimes called electric convulsion therapy, convulsion treatment or electroplexy) is a controversial psychiatric treatment in which seizures are induced with electricity.[1] ECT was first used in the United Kingdom in 1939 and, although its use has been declining for several decades, it was still given to about 11,000 people a year in the early 2000s.[2]

In contemporary psychiatric practice, ECT is used mainly in the treatment of depression. It is occasionally used in the treatment of other disorders such as schizophrenia.[2] When undergoing modern ECT, a patient is given an anaesthetic and a muscle relaxant. A brief-pulse electric current of about 800 milliamperes is passed between two electrodes on the head for several seconds, causing a seizure.[3] The resulting convulsion is modified by the muscle relaxant. ECT is usually given on an inpatient basis; about one in five treatments are given on an outpatient basis.[2] Treatment is usually given twice a week (occasionally three times a week) for a total of 6–12 treatments, although courses may be longer or shorter.[2] About 70 per cent of ECT patients are women.[2] About 1,500 ECT patients a year in the UK are treated without their consent under the Mental Health Acts or the provisions of common law.[4]

  1. ^ Carney S and Geddes J (2003) Editorial: electroconvulsive therapy. British Medical Journal 326: 1343-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e Electroconvulsive therapy: survey covering the period from January 2002 to March 2002, Statistical Bulletin 2003/08. Department of Health.
  3. ^ Lock T (1995) Appendix VI: review of ECT machines. In C Freeman (ed) The ECT Handbook. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  4. ^ Care Quality Commission 2010 Monitoring the use of the Mental Health Act in 2009/10 Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine: 89–93