Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 339-353

Does electroconvulsive therapy cause brain damage: An update

Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shubh Mohan Singh
Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_239_19

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective modality of treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders. However, it has always been accused of being a coercive, unethical, and dangerous modality of treatment. The dangerousness of ECT has been mainly attributed to its claimed ability to cause brain damage. This narrative review aims to provide an update of the evidence with regard to whether the practice of ECT is associated with damage to the brain. An accepted definition of brain damage remains elusive. There are also ethical and technical problems in designing studies that look at this question specifically. Thus, even though there are newer technological tools and innovations, any review attempting to answer this question would have to take recourse to indirect methods. These include structural, functional, and metabolic neuroimaging; body fluid biochemical marker studies; and follow-up studies of cognitive impairment and incidence of dementia in people who have received ECT among others. The review of literature and present evidence suggests that ECT has a demonstrable impact on the structure and function of the brain. However, there is a lack of evidence at present to suggest that ECT causes brain damage.



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