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Electroconvulsive Therapy Program

Common Side Effects


Occasionally, a patient may have a headache, muscle aches, or nausea after the treatment. These side effects can be treated with medications before or after the ECT. If you experience any of these side effects please inform your doctor and nurse. Once the staff is aware of these side effects, measures can be taken to prevent them.

Additionally, some people may exhibit mental confusion resulting from the combination of anesthesia and/or ECT treatment. Acute confusion, if it occurs, typically lasts for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You are closely observed by nursing staff and doctors during this time for your safety.


Memory loss is one of the greatest concerns of people who receive ECT. Two different kinds of memory loss may occur during the course of ECT treatments. The first is the loss of short-term memory during the period of time that you are having ECT treatments. Some examples of short-term memory loss include forgetting what you had for lunch or not remembering talking to someone earlier in the day. Your ability to remember new information will generally return to your normal level within a few weeks to a few months after the treatments are finished.

The second type of memory loss that may occur involves memory loss for past events. Recent past events (2 to 6 weeks before treatment) are more sensitive to ECT. However, some patients may describe "spotty" memory loss for events that occurred as far back as 6 months before beginning ECT. This memory impairment is potentially permanent. Although it is rare, some patients have reported a more severe memory loss of events which date back further than the 6 months preceding ECT treatments.