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. AC Repair in Miami, FL

    I am really happy to say it's an interesting post to read . I learn new information from your article , you are doing a great job . Flooring Installers of Pittsburgh, 1933 Crafton Blvd #5, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, (412) 415-7629


    May 30, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Box Truck Repair Shop


    May 30, 2021 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Content Marketing Experts


    May 30, 2021 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sprinter Van Repair Laguna Niguel

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!


    May 31, 2021 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Roof Repair Service Near Me


    May 31, 2021 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Service Repair Near Me


    May 31, 2021 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Fridge Repair Near Me

    This page truly has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 31, 2021 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Luxury Sprinter Van Shop Near Me


    May 31, 2021 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sprinter Van Repair Fountain Valley

    This page definitely has all of the information I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 31, 2021 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Chevy Express Van Repair

    There's certainly a lot to know about this topic. I really like all the points you've made.


    May 31, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Video Marketing Experts


    May 31, 2021 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sprinter Repair Mechanics

    Good post! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    May 31, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mercedes Sprinter Service Near Me


    May 31, 2021 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sprinter Van Alignment Shop

    I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.


    June 1, 2021 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sprinter Ecu Repair

    There's certainly a lot to know about this subject. I really like all of the points you've made.


    June 1, 2021 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Luxury Sprinter Van Shop


    June 1, 2021 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. orange county awnings


    June 1, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ram High Top Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 1, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cherryl Hupka


    June 1, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Carola Dingel


    June 1, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv furniture center

    Excellent article! We are linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 1, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Stephaine Doris


    June 1, 2021 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Erasmo Liford

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly believed you would probably have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you could fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    June 1, 2021 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Maegan Hoffses

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Many thanks! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 1, 2021 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lakeshia Garritson

    Aw, this was a very good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 2, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. commercial truck painting near me


    June 2, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Micheal Naquin

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after browsing through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!


    June 2, 2021 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. rv interiors san diego

    You have made some good points there. I checked on the net for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.


    June 2, 2021 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sprinter Van Body


    June 2, 2021 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. aftermarket installation shops near me


    June 2, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Social Media Marketing Consultants Near Me

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.


    June 2, 2021 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Setsuko Lury


    June 2, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Luxury Van Repair Shop Near Me

    Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this content together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 2, 2021 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Brianna Vittum

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your web site.


    June 3, 2021 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. rv remodel near me


    June 3, 2021 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. SEO Marketing Consultants


    June 3, 2021 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. redtube store


    June 3, 2021 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Video Marketing Experts

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you need to publish more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don't speak about such topics. To the next! Many thanks!!


    June 3, 2021 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Sprinter Fuel Filler Pipe Repair


    June 3, 2021 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Video Marketing Service


    June 3, 2021 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. rv remodel companies


    June 3, 2021 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. free gay vidioes


    June 3, 2021 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Repair Shop


    June 3, 2021 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. rv maintenance videos


    June 4, 2021 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. orange truck shop


    June 4, 2021 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mercedes Sprinter 3.0 Intake Runner Repair


    June 4, 2021 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Satellite Repair Near Me

    I blog quite often and I truly appreciate your information. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your website and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    June 4, 2021 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. cvs near me

    Great article! We will be linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 4, 2021 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. 2006 Mercedes Sprinter 2500 Turbo Actuator Repair

    I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your information. This article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your Feed as well.


    June 4, 2021 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Sprinter Van Repair Shop Near Me


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

Post a comment


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.

April 2011
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.