Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)



Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) sends an electronic current through the brain. This current causes brief seizure activity. This causes changes in brain chemistry.

The Brain
Color coded brain
During ECT, an electronic current is delivered to the brain.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Problems with thinking and memory that may go away in a couple of weeks or may last for many months
  • Short-term changes in heart rhythm
  • Long-lasting seizure
  • Heart attack or cardiac arrest

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • A history of heart problems, stroke, or high blood pressure
  • Pregnancy
  • Increased age



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Therapy, Electroconvulsive; ECT)


American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org 

Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net 


Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca 

Canadian Psychiatric Association https://www.cpa-apc.org 


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/how-electroconvulsive-therapy-works. Accessed November 23, 2020.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/ect. Accessed November 23, 2020.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/electroconvulsive-therapy-ect-for-depression. Accessed November 23, 2020.

Ottosson JO, Odeberg H. Evidence-based electroconvulsive therapy. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2012 Mar;125(3):177-184.