What should I expect after having electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?

Here's what happens after the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment:
  • Moving to the recovery area. You will be moved to a recovery area. Healthcare providers will monitor and take care of you as the anesthetic wears off. The monitoring equipment will be removed as soon as it is no longer needed. You'll wake up gradually. As you wake up, you may be a little confused or not sure where you are. This will not last long.
  • Leaving. You will be monitored until you are awake enough to return to your room (if you are staying in the hospital) or go home. Some people recover from anesthesia faster than others. The time it takes you to wake up and remember where you are may vary from 30 minutes to several hours.
After a treatment, you may notice some side effects. Here's what you might expect:
  • Feeling tired. Most people feel tired the day of the treatment.
  • Temporary headache or muscle soreness that should go away within a couple of days. Use over-the-counter pain medication if needed.
  • Temporary nausea. This should also go away within a couple of days. If you have nausea, drink small amounts of fluids and try foods that are easy on your stomach, such as applesauce, Jell-O, puddings, or toast. Stay away from greasy, spicy, or acidic foods.
  • Memory loss. This side effect varies from person to person. To prevent problems caused by memory loss, do not sign any legal contracts or make important decisions until you are cleared to do so by your doctor. This could take a few weeks after the entire series of ECT treatments.
  • Activities. You can do whatever you feel like doing around your home, as long as it isn't strenuous, dangerous, or complex. On treatment days, make sure someone is with you when you leave home, and do not drive or go to work.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.