Although ECT is generally safe, risks and side effects may include:

  • Confusion. Immediately after an ECT treatment, you may experience a period of confusion that can last from a few minutes to several hours. You may not know where you are or why you're there. You may be able to return to normal activities right away, or you may need to rest for several hours after treatment. Rarely, confusion may last several days or longer. Confusion is generally more noticeable in older adults.
  • Memory loss. ECT can affect memory in several ways. You may have trouble remembering events that occurred before treatment began, a condition known as retrograde amnesia. It may be hard to remember things in the weeks or months leading up to treatment, although some people do have problems with memories from previous years, as well. You may also have trouble recalling events that occurred during the weeks of your treatment. And some people have trouble with memory of events that occur even after ECT has stopped. These memory problems usually improve within a couple of months.
  • Physical side effects. On the days you have an ECT treatment, you may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, jaw pain, muscle ache or muscle spasms. These generally can be treated with medications.
  • Medical complications. As with any type of medical procedure, especially one that involves anesthesia, there are risks of medical complications. During ECT, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and in rare cases, that can lead to serious heart problems. If you have heart problems, ECT may be more risky.
Oct. 25, 2012