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Two electrodes are placed on the head, one above the temple and the other in the
middle of the forehead. A sedative is given to ensure the patient is unconscious
before the current of 0.6 amps is applied. The patient is also paralysed by
another chemical to stop injuries from the convulsion. The current is passed for
half a second and patients typically receive between 3 and 15 treatments.
One study using 798 patients found that ECT is more effective than a placebo
called `sham ECT' (when the usual procedure is followed but no electric current is
passed through the patient's brain). However ECT was found to be less effective
when compared to medication although some patients did appear to benefit from
both ECT and medication together.
Other research in India found contradictory evidence suggesting that there is no
difference between real and sham ECT. However this study only looked at 36
The reasons for this contradictory evidence could be:
Cultural variation in diagnosis as it could be that in India a different
diagnosis was used which means that they may only think that very extreme
cases of schizophrenia require ECT as a last resort, whereas American
diagnosis may lead to less extreme cases being treated with ECT. Therefore
Indian cases have a smaller chance of recovery as the cases are more
extreme so would naturally have a smaller chance of recovery than
Cultural variation in after care as Indian hospitals may have worse after
care than American hospitals which could mean that there are higher
chances of a relapse in India.
Side effects of ECT are severe; they include brain damage, death and memory
loss. This means that ECT isn't used as an everyday treatment for schizophrenia; it
is used only as a last resort if nothing else is working.