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What are the risks of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?

These are risks and potential complications of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):

Problems caused by anesthesia:
  • The anesthesia can inhibit the reflexes that keep stomach contents from reaching the throat, wind pipe, or lungs. If this happens, it can block your breathing or cause pneumonia. To prevent this, do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before an ECT treatment.
  • Anesthesia can cause a serious allergic reaction. Tell the doctor about any medication allergies you have.
Problems caused by the procedure:
  • In rare cases, a heart rhythm problem can occur. In extremely rare cases (fewer than 1 in 10,000 patients), this can be fatal.
  • Despite muscle relaxant medication, muscle contractions can sometimes happen. In very rare cases, they can be strong enough to fracture a vertebra (bone in your spine) or other bone.
  • Tooth damage can occur. It is important to tell your doctor about any loose teeth, loose caps, bridges, dentures, or other dental appliances.

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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.