Is electroconvulsive therapy safe for patients with schizophrenia?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe treatment for people with schizophrenia. During ECT, electrodes on the scalp send an electric current to the brain, causing a seizure. This treatment is mostly helpful for people who are not responding to other standard schizophrenia treatments, such as antipsychotic medications and psychosocial therapies. While historically ECT might have resulted in injuries, procedures are now performed under anesthesia with a muscle relaxant, which lowers the risk for injuries. However, there are still risks for complications.  On occasion, people who receive ECT notice temporary memory problems after treatment. Others may experience body aches or pains. ECT requires the use of general anesthesia, which may increase one's risk of complications.

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