A form of medical treatment which has been greatly criticised is electro-convulsive therapy (ÅÑÒ, or shock treatment).

This was first used in medicine more than 40 years ago. Although effective, its exact mode of action still is not understood.

ÅÑÒ is used for depression, particularly in involutional melancholia, in the severe depression of the elderly, or depression as part of an affective disorder such as manic-depressive psychosis. It may also be used in the depression accompanying schizophrenia.

This form of treatment once was regarded as unpleasant. (An electric current is applied to the head and this induces a series of convulsions like an epileptic fit).

Now, ÅÑÒ is easy to administer and regarded as acceptable to patients. An injection given directly into a vein contains a quick-acting general anaesthetic combined with a muscle relaxant drug.

The patient is unaware of the muscular spasms, which are reduced to a minor twitching.

Consciousness is regained quickly and usually there are no after-effects beyond a temporary loss of memory.

This amnesia becomes more marked with more treatments and sometimes the person cannot remember what went on in hospital over the two to three weeks of his stay. Memory function returns to normal, however, when the treatment ends.

There is no doubt that ÅÑÒ is effective, especially in severe depression. In the elderly it may be safer than using drugs. At times it may be life saving.


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