Electroconvulsive Therapy

Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8500

Inpatient Behavioral Health Services

Psychlink: 214-630-7285

24/7 Access

Many people have severe depression, bipolar disorder, or other serious mental illnesses that don’t respond to medication or psychotherapy. 

As part of one of the largest psychiatry programs in the country, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s specialists offer electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a safe, effective treatment that can help manage symptoms.

Safe, Effective Treatment for Serious Mental Illness

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment that sends a brief electrical stimulation through the brain while the patient is under general anesthesia. ECT causes changes in brain chemistry that can substantially improve symptoms of certain mental illnesses. 

Although ECT might not work for everyone, it can often be successful when other treatments, such as medication or therapy, haven’t worked. ECT has been extensively studied and is endorsed as an effective treatment by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, and the U.S. Surgeon General. 

At UT Southwestern, our team has extensive experience and advanced training in administering ECT that patients can rely on. Each year, the experienced physicians in the Department of Psychiatry treat hundreds of patients with ECT. Specially trained faculty physicians administer this treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital.

Conditions We Treat

At UT Southwestern, we use ECT to treat people with certain mental illnesses who are experiencing severe symptoms. Conditions we treat include:

  • Severe depression, especially if it involves psychosis (detachment from reality) or the desire to commit suicide
  • Treatment-resistant depression (severe depression that does not respond to medication)
  • Severe mania, a period of intense hyperactivity or agitation associated with bipolar disorder
  • Catatonia, which involves problems with movement and lack of speech

Learn more about the conditions we treat in our adult psychiatry program.

Treatment with Electroconvulsive Therapy

Patients will undergo evaluation and testing (lab work and an electrocardiogram, or ECG) to assess their general health and determine whether ECT is a good option for them.  

Most patients can receive ECT as an outpatient procedure but might need to be hospitalized for some of the related treatments, depending on each case. Learn more about the care we provide in our inpatient psychiatry units. 

The decision to undergo ECT should involve the patient, the family, and the physician. As with any medical treatment, it is important to carefully consider the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Support Services

As part of our comprehensive care for people with mental health disorders, we offer support groups and other resources. These services can be tailored to meet the specific needs of patients and their families for improved quality of life. Read more about supportive services available for psychiatry and psychology patients.