Convulsive therapy is a psychiatric treatment for patients with major affective disorders. The treatments seek to change mood, affect, and interpersonal behavior by altering brain functions by a series of grand mal seizures. A successful course requires from 8 to 12 treatments, spaced 48 to 72 hours apart. Seizures may be induced by chemical or electrical means with equal efficacy. The principal benefits are the rapid relief of disordered mood, improvement in the vegetative functions, and reduction in suicidal drive. The principal risks are the development of an organic mental syndrome, usually cognitive impairment (memory loss), and fracture. While 8% of patients admitted to academic in-patient psychiatric services in the U.S. receive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the treatments are infrequently used in municipal, state, and federal facilities. About 100,000 patients are treated annually.
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