Q: ECT & Memory
Dr, I underwent a series of ECT's in late 2000, early 2001.
My memory has been screwed ever since. I live in a 8 week window.
After about eight weeks I just forget just about all that has happened in the
previous 8 weeks. My memory of current events slips like a worn out
clutch. Example, a father of one of my kids friends came over and I could
not remember his face. I forget directions, what I have eaten at
restaurants and if I liked it or not. I live by notes and the good graces
of my wife as I take lousy notes. I'm tired and worn out doc can
anything help me recover??
Dear Mr. G' --
I've forwarded your question to a colleague of mine who does ECT. We'll
see what he says. For now, let's say that if you don't hear back from me
here via this website, that he had no ideas on how you should proceed.
There are very bad stories like yours out there. I'm going to refer you to
a website that has a bulletin board and wants to help support people with such
Before I send you and perhaps others there, however, a
word about ECT. In my area this is never used unless the patient is:
a) desperate for some sort of solution to symptoms that have not responded to
many, many other interventions; and b) entirely voluntary in the request for ECT.
Thus, at least in Oregon, where there are only 4 doc's doing ECT and it's hard
to come by unless you really want it, there appears to me to be no problem in
having people get ECT who don't want it. Notice that on the website you're
about to visit, at least half the energy is about this issue.
Secondly, ECT is known to cause memory problems, as you
surely heard before ECT. However, it's not supposed to do what has
happened to you, and you were probably not warned that this would
happen. In fact, according to the research I've encountered -- and I recently
was studying it because I was recently considering gearing up to offer ECT
myself, as it's in such demand around my area -- when patients are studied 6
months after ECT you can't detect evidence then of cognitive problems, including
memory. This is different for people who have had many treatments,
though. You may have had quite a few in the "series" of ECT's?
There is new evidence that a large number of treatments with ECT can indeed
cause cognitive problems, including memory. Here's the abstract for that
article; unfortunately, it does not say how many treatments, on average, were
Ok, now for the (hopefully) supportive website.
Just be cautious about joining in with the energy there about how bad ECT is,
okay? It's been a lifesaver, literally, for several of my patients.
There is a new technique using a very high power magnet that you may have heard
about, called repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS, that has
been shown in several studies to be as effective, or nearly so, as ECT.Grunhaus
One of the experts in the field recently told me that there is evidence
showing that people who respond to ECT preferentially respond to rTMS.
There are apparently at least two doc's in the U.S. who are doing rTMS
privately; otherwise it's still a research tool. I plan to offer rTMS
myself within a year, if the logistics work out as hoped. The point here
is that we may have an alternative to ECT coming soon; but until it is
available, ECT is a vital tool that we should not scare people away from.
They just need to know that really bad outcomes occasionally do happen, like
yours. If I ever offered ECT, I'd link the "anti-ECT" website
below and require people to read it before they consented to the
Ok, here you go, and good luck:
(in case you haven't already found it...)
Published March, 2003