April 27th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

Is electroconvulsive therapy safe?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Ky-Nisha of Florida:

Is electroconvulsive therapy safe to use on children?

Expert answer:

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a funny business. By far the most effective treatment in psychiatry, it is also by far the most reviled.

At least as safe as many of our medications, its use is nonetheless severely circumscribed in many states. It's an intervention with generally mild side effects, but many people emotionally equate it with lobotomy, aided in this regard by searing images from the classic film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

On the other hand, those of us who have seen countless patients saved from suicide or natural death from their severe psychiatric conditions have a profound admiration for the procedure.

It appears that children and adolescents are no less likely to benefit from ECT than are adults, and so the quick answer to your question is: Yes, ECT is safe in children and adolescents.

FDA panel deems electroshock devices high risk

In fact, guidelines for its use in these patients were published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2004. The essence of these guidelines is that ECT should be considered in children with severe psychiatric disorders and/or in cases of significant suicide risk when other interventions have failed.

To understand these guidelines, we have to keep two somewhat opposite truths in mind. The first truth is that most children and adolescents with psychiatric struggles can be helped immensely by psychotherapeutic or pharmacological interventions, not only for themselves but for their parents.

For example, a large recent study showed that resolving a mother's depression had a bigger positive effect on the mental health of her children than it had on her.

The second truth is that, although rare, cases of severe mood and psychotic disorders in young people are not unknown. These cases can be catastrophic, as anyone who has worked on an inpatient child/adolescent psychiatric unit can attest. When young people with these conditions have failed other interventions, ECT can be a lifesaver.

By the way, I'm not using the word "lifesaver" in a metaphoric sense. Before the age of modern medications, approximately 5% of patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals died from their symptoms.

Today, we rarely see a condition called malignant catatonia, but it used to be far more common, and it used to kill almost everyone who developed it.

Death usually came from extremely high body temperatures (up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) or from the development of a pulmonary embolus or sudden cardiac death.

soundoff (804 Responses)
  1. gutter replacement and repair Hainesport

    Fairly high-quality explanation. continue the good work


    May 15, 2021 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. We Buy Houses Jacksonville FL

    This is a very interesting article. Please, share more like this!


    May 15, 2021 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Roofer Raleigh

    such a great information for blogger i am a professional blogger thanks


    May 15, 2021 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. realtor wallace

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    May 15, 2021 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. commercial roofing Hainesport

    Thank you, I've just been looking for information approximately this topic for a long time and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you certain concerning the supply?


    May 15, 2021 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Radon Lexington KY

    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.


    May 15, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Flooring Installation Pittsburgh PA

    Thanks for wonderful information I used to be in search of this info for my mission.


    May 15, 2021 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. commercial locksmith Palo Alto

    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.


    May 15, 2021 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. hvac Installation Tan Valley

    This blog is great check it out


    May 15, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. My Pro Cleaner TX

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    May 15, 2021 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. california camper repair


    May 15, 2021 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Chrysler Tc By Maserati


    May 15, 2021 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Social Media Marketing Agency


    May 15, 2021 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. stake center near me

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this short article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 15, 2021 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Aika Skill Simulator


    May 15, 2021 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Internet Marketing Quote

    I really like it when people come together and share ideas. Great site, keep it up!


    May 15, 2021 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. aitan arena aika private server

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you need to write more on this issue, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't talk about such issues. To the next! Cheers!!


    May 16, 2021 at 04:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Aika Game


    May 16, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Content Marketing Agency Near Me

    That is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise information… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 16, 2021 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Content Marketing Orange County

    Saved as a favorite, I love your blog!


    May 16, 2021 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. truck shop orange

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest of the website is really good.


    May 16, 2021 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. repair near me


    May 16, 2021 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sprinter Calliper Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Used Maserati Houston


    May 16, 2021 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Sprinter Repair Mechanics


    May 16, 2021 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Van Auto Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sprinter Van Repair Shop Near Me


    May 16, 2021 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Diesel Sprinter Engine Repair Service


    May 17, 2021 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Maserati Gran Turismo


    May 17, 2021 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 2003 Dodge Sprinter Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Maserati Truck


    May 17, 2021 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Mercedes Sprinter Diesel Service Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back once again since i have bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.


    May 17, 2021 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Van Sliding Door Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Maserati Life

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Resistor Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. 2014 Maserati Granturismo Convertible

    May I simply say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what they're discussing over the internet. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people should check this out and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular given that you certainly have the gift.


    May 17, 2021 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. camper body repair

    Saved as a favorite, I love your web site!


    May 17, 2021 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. 2012 Maserati Granturismo S

    Great info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I've book-marked it for later!


    May 17, 2021 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. rv repairs near me

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m certainly happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


    May 18, 2021 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. rv repairs near me


    May 18, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. fiberglass rv repair


    May 18, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ipa Beer Near Me

    Hi there! This blog post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I will send this information to him. Pretty sure he'll have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    May 18, 2021 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Rose Wine Companies

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It's always interesting to read through content from other authors and use something from other websites.


    May 18, 2021 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. vehicle air conditioning repair near me


    May 18, 2021 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. car air conditioning service near me

    Hello there, I do think your blog could be having browser compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, great blog!


    May 18, 2021 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Forklift Repair Shop Los Angeles

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after looking at some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely pleased I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    May 18, 2021 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Forklift Dealer Orange County

    I used to be able to find good information from your content.


    May 18, 2021 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. American Vision Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Metal Roofing Suppliers Near Me

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to revisit once again since I saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    May 19, 2021 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. gifts new mom

    After going over a few of the blog posts on your website, I truly appreciate your way of blogging. I added it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and tell me how you feel.


    May 19, 2021 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Leave a Reply to 2003 Dodge Sprinter Repair


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.