ECT patients view therapy positively

Doctor's hand taking probe for electroconvulsive therapy

The majority of patients who undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) think it was a positive experience and would undergo the treatment again, a study[1]
has found.

In the research, which involved 30 NHS patients from Worcestershire, 80% said they thought ECT was a useful procedure and 70% said it worked quicker than drugs. Only 20% said they would be reluctant to have the treatment again.

“ECT is a very effective but underused treatment, partly due to the perception of the nature of this treatment,” says lead author Latha Guruvaiah. “This study illustrates that the overall experience and attitude of patients and carers on ECT treatment were positive.”

The study was based on questionnaires and interviews with patients, who underwent ECT during a two-year period at one NHS trust, and their carers. Most of the participants were female and the average age was 62 years.

Overall, 37% said ECT was a frightening treatment compared with 53% who disagreed. And 44% said they felt slightly or very anxious/frightened before ECT treatment. But overall, 80% said they would readily have the treatment again.

Reporting in Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry (online, 31 May 2017), the researchers note that ECT has been restricted to fewer and more serious conditions, such as severe depression and severe manic episodes. But they say the media’s portrayal of the treatment has probably contributed to negative perceptions and underuse.

They suggest that the introduction of ECT accreditation standards by the Royal College of Psychiatrists since 2003 has probably helped to improve the patient experience and made it less frightening for them and their carers.

“Many treatment options are available now for psychiatric disorders but still ECT is considered an effective treatment and has been found to be a potential lifesaver in many cases,” says Guruvaiah.


[1] Guruvaiah L, Veerasamy K, Naveed M et al. Patients’ experiences of and attitudes towards ECT. Prog Neurol Psychiatry 2017 21(2):16–21. doi: 10.1002/pnp.466

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June, Vol 298, No 7902;298(7902):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202940

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