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Electroconvulsive Therapy - Historical Origins

ect patients psychiatric medications

ECT was discovered in Europe in the first part of the twentieth century. In 1934, a Hungarian psychiatrist, Ladislas von Meduna reported on the successful use of a chemical product, camphor, to induce epileptic seizures (convulsions) in a series of patients with schizophrenia. This form of convulsive therapy was found to be efficacious but extremely unpleasant. Four years later, the Italians Ugo Cerletti and Luigi Bini used electricity to induce seizures.

ECT was first used in the United States in 1940, and within a few years it became widely used. Following the development of effective psychiatric medications in the 1950s, the use of ECT and other somatic psychiatric treatments, such as psychosurgery, decreased markedly. However, a number of studies have shown that some patients who do not respond to medications can be treated successfully with ECT. As of 2000, it was estimated that about 100,000 American patients with severe psychiatric disorders were treated annually with ECT.

Electroconvulsive Therapy - Indications [next]

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