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Archive for Monday, August 11, 2008

Nurse tries to dispel ECT stereotypes

August 11, 2008

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Beth Baker is a nurse and coordinator for the ECT program at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Overland Park. ECT or electroconvulsive therapy is used most often for treatment for depression or bipolar disorder.

Beth Baker is a nurse and coordinator for the ECT program at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Overland Park. ECT or electroconvulsive therapy is used most often for treatment for depression or bipolar disorder.

Jack Nicholson's Oscar-winning role in the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" poses a daily challenge for nurse Beth Baker.

Baker, who coordinates the electroconvulsive therapy program at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, has the task of educating potential patients that the modern-day version of the procedure is nothing like what Nicholson's character endured.

"Everyone mentions it," Baker said of the film that has left a heavy footprint on people's perception of ECT, otherwise known as "shock therapy."

And if you or a family member were considering ECT treatment for a mental illness, it might be hard to erase the images of Nicholson's character being restrained by orderlies and violently shocked, leaving him drooling and dazed.

Baker is the first stop for people considering ECT at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and she works to educate potential ECT patients and their families about new technology that has transformed ECT from a violent and painful procedure into one performed on anesthetized patients who usually don't even remember having the treatment.

A 22-year-old Lawrence woman who has undergone ECT at Shawnee Mission said the procedure is mostly painless.

"The only things that hurts is the needle going in your arm," she said.

Baker has been in charge of the ECT program since November 2007 but has spent the majority of her 23 years working as a nurse in the mental health field. Baker worked with ECT patients in the 1980s and has seen how far the procedure has come.

Early in her career, Baker came in to see a patient after ECT treatment and asked him to put his socks on. He did, but on his hands. Those types of memory and cognitive problems have been dramatically lessened with better technology and procedures, Baker said.

And for Baker, fighting stereotypes and the stigma about ECT doesn't stop when she leaves the office. When she tells people what she does for a living, she often gets responses that show a continued lack of knowledge within the lay community about modern-day ECT.

"I've had people ask me, 'How can you do that?'" Baker said. "I want people to know that ECT is not like it was in the 1940s."

- Freelance writer Shaun Hittle is graduate student at Kansas University's William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Comments

TheEleventhStephanie 6 years, 2 months ago

I was told by a doctor who wanted to ECT the heck out of my mom that they actually use a higher electric current than they used to and that they still don't really undertsand how the whole thing works. I told Dr. Shocker to go experiment on her own mother then.Terrifying procedure, if you ask me.

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cowboy 6 years, 2 months ago

Lets bring back lobotomies while were at it. Having worked in a large state hospital in the 70's I had the twice weekly ECT escort duty. It was a sight to say the least , Id say 5% effective and 95% WTF happened to my brain.

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Ragingbear 6 years, 2 months ago

The new methods involved putting the patient to sleep, but involves targeting a very specific part of the brain, instead of just zapping the crap out of the entire head. The voltage, amperage and duration are different as well, and there are well defined methods for doing this, so it's not guesswork.I've known a few people who have received treatment. It is definitely not a mild treatment. Disorientation, long and short term memory loss, fatigue, muscle soreness(from the convulsions) and the like are very common, and almost guaranteed. While most of the time, these are temporary symptoms, some experience side effects for months, or even years into the future. Cognitive impairment and memory recall being the most common of them. What is interesting, is that even with the side effects they endure, they say that they would go through it again.Yeah, so we don't understand completely why it works. The same warning is listed in every single psychotropic medication.Nor is this a treatment to take lightly, but it is definitely not a barbaric process as believed by narrow minded people who refuse to understand things want you to believe.

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Mama 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't get this article. So, she's trying to dispel the stereotypes about ECT but did I miss the part of the article that actually describes current day methods? Yeah, so they're anesthetized now but what exactly are the current technologies and methods? Other than the anesthesia, same old, same old?? Poor article, to me.

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Pro_Counsel 6 years, 2 months ago

"I was told by a doctor who wanted to ECT the heck out of my mom that they actually use a higher electric current than they used to and that they still don't really undertsand how the whole thing works."If you go to the library and browse through the PDR, you'll find the same is true for most of the medications we take.I'm not the biggest fan of ECT. But putting things in perspective, it is not usually a first-line treatment, it is usually used when other options have been exhausted. Yes, there are some temporary side effects. But then, think of the side effects of such medical treatments as chemo or radiation - like those, you use ECT when the risks of not doing it outweigh the risks of using it. And I do know some people it has helped.

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kansasrose 6 years, 2 months ago

don't even get me started. My late husband had over 40 sessions of ECT. The treatments left him unable to find his way to work, and eventually he had to re-learn his job as his memory was so affected. He 'lost' all memories of our two chidlren's early years, our wedding, etc. He felt like a stranger in his own life. I got to know several other patients' families while waiting for him during his treatments. Most stopped the treatment. I'm sorry, but, I believe this treatment on my husband sped up his eventual suicide. This article doesn't illustrate any positives to the treatment.

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costello 6 years, 2 months ago

Thanks to Pro_Counsel and Ragingbear for their comments. I was thinking the same things but didn't feel informed enough to respond.1. You don't get ECT for mild depression or as a first treatment for major depression.2. Medications also have side effects.I saw this video a couple of months ago and was very moved by it:http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/sherwin_nuland_on_electroshock_therapy.html

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HaroldAMaio 6 years, 2 months ago

The "procedures" for ECT have changed, the controversy has not. As with all such procedures, informing oneself is a prerequisite. Search "Linda Andre" for a different point of view. Harold A. Maio

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gphawk89 6 years, 2 months ago

ECT is not a first-line treatment, usually. BUT, antidepressants take some time (sometimes weeks) to become fully effective, whereas ECT works immediately. A patient with severe depression might be better off dealing with some ECT side effects than dealing with weeks more of the depression. And for some folks, antidepressants just don't work."muscle soreness (from the convulsions)"This should not be an issue if the procedure is done correctly. Patients are given a very-short-acting but powerful muscle relaxant (powerful enough that the patient is "tubed" to assist the breathing).About 9 out of 10 patients that undergo the procedure say they are satisfied with the results and would do it again if necessary.Long-term side effects are quite rare.

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kansasrose 6 years, 2 months ago

I knew of half a dozen patients who discontinued the treatment because of the side effects. I think that is a substantial number of people responding to this treatment.

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