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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

For severe, treatment-resistant mental health conditions

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes called shock therapy. This may sound painful, but ECT doesn’t hurt. St. Luke’s provides ECT treatments for patients with severe and treatment-resistant mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders.

Provided in both outpatient and inpatient settings, our evidence-based treatment plans help manage symptoms. We coordinate with patients, families and healthcare providers to provide the most comprehensive ECT treatment. Patients will continue to see their outpatient provider throughout and after their ECT treatment.

Our service includes:

  • An initial evaluation by an ECT-trained psychiatrist
  • An evaluation by our anesthesia team and close anesthesia monitoring by both an anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist with every treatment
  • Ability to start ECT treatment in the outpatient or inpatient setting, depending on patient needs
  • ECT nurse coordinators who are available to answer questions and facilitate treatment schedules
  • Recovery after the procedure with our recovery room nursing staff

How is ECT therapy done?
Patients will meet with an ECT-trained psychiatrist for a consult to learn about the treatment. They will be able to decide together whether it is right for the patient. Consults are scheduled at Surgical & Procedural Care, in St. Luke’s Building A, Level 3. ECT treatments are offered at St. Luke’s Hospital.

How long does treatment last?
We offer both acute series (anywhere from six to 15 treatments) and maintenance treatments (weekly to every six to eight weeks depending on severity of symptoms) in order to help prevent relapse. Each treatment session will last about two hours.

Is ECT covered by insurance?
This procedure is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances. We obtain insurance authorization prior to beginning treatment.

What are the risks?
When done properly, ECT is quite safe. Right after the treatment, the patient may be confused. This often lasts for less than half an hour. They may have a headache or stiff muscles, but these symptoms often go away quickly. A more serious possible side effect is memory loss. Commonly, people have short-term (temporary) trouble remembering information that they learned recently. They also may have little recall of the time when they received treatment. Less commonly, people may have long-lasting (permanent) difficulty remembering major past events. In rare cases, there may be memory loss for larger blocks of time.

St. Luke’s offers the most modern ECT equipment, and electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring and titration of the stimulus to best treat the patient’s mental health symptoms. Our anesthesia team also provides constant monitoring. Medications and changes in treatment are made to minimize any side effects and to help with comfort during and after treatments.

How soon can I receive ECT?
We are able to offer a timely consult appointment. Patients will be asked prior to starting an acute series to have a physical examination, EKG and laboratory tests, which can be arranged after their initial consultation with our ECT psychiatrist.

Referral required for this service. If you need one, talk to your primary care provider.

To refer a patient, call our ECT coordinators at 218.249.5668 or 218.249.5669. Information may also be faxed to 218.249.5056. To establish care with a St. Luke’s primary care provider, call 218.249.4000 or find a clinic near you.

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