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When should ECT be used?

Abstract

Though electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been widely used in depressive illness for over 30 years, its use is empirical, its mode of action remains unknown, and some medical and lay people have asserted that its dangers outweigh its usefulness. Over the years the mode of administration has gradually changed with the introduction of anaesthetics and muscle relaxants. The number of shocks in a course of ECT has tended to lessen and unilateral ECT has some advantages.1 Nevertheless, recently the long-standing controversy on its use has increased. In some states in America legislation has been introduced to restrict it2 and questions on its possible harmful effects have been asked in the House of Commons.3

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