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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Last Updated 3/12/2014 2:30:23 PM

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a highly effective treatment for a number of psychiatric conditions. A person may undergo ECT for severe depression that has not responded to medications or other treatments. For some, ECT can be life saving.

What is ECT?

ECT involves electrical stimulation of the brain via electrodes attached to the head in order to induce a safe and effective seizure. The resulting seizure can improve depression, mania, suicidality, and even psychosis. The procedure is performed by a trained psychiatrist under general anesthesia, with an anesthesiologist and nurse in attendance to monitor the patient’s vital signs and well-being. A number of recent technological advances have increased the safety of ECT and decreased the risks of side effects.

What is a typical treatment plan?

There will be an initial evaluation by the treating physician. The treatment plan usually starts with three treatments per week for about one month, followed by eight maintenance treatments over the following three months in order to maintain improvement. Treatments are performed at El Camino Hospital. Initial and follow-up visits will take place at the Outpatient Behavioral Health offices.


There are a few situations in which ECT is not an appropriate choice of treatment. Medical problems such as a recent heart attack or stroke can be contraindications, though not in all cases. ECT is even safe enough for pregnant women unable to take medications. Medical clearance from a physician is required to undergo the procedure.

For more information about ECT, visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Our Staff

El Camino Hospital has two psychiatrists who specialize in the administration of ECT. Dr. Thomas Havel trained at Georgetown University and has worked at ECH performing ECT since 1980. Dr. Katherine Taylor trained at Stanford and has performed ECT at Stanford and El Camino Hospital Mountain View since 2005. She joined the staff at El Camino Hospital in March, 2007.

A nurse coordinator works closely with patients, their families, and their current psychiatrist, so that questions and concerns can be addressed throughout the treatment period.

Referral Process and Admission

Patients can be referred for ECT by an outpatient psychiatrist, who feels that more effective treatment is needed. Our team will work closely with your psychiatrist to keep him or her involved. Patients can receive ECT while they are admitted to the hospital or while they are living at home.

Where can I get more information?

Please contact our nurse coordinator at 650-962-5795 for information and appointments. We have informational DVDs and written material available to mail to you.

Fees and Insurance

Our nurse coordinator can help to liaise with your insurance company to determine your coverage for pre-ECT evaluation, ECT treatments and follow-up visits at the hospital. Our nurse coordinator can help to obtain pre-authorization for treatment.


El Camino Hospital
Behavioral Health Services
2500 Grant Road
Mountain View, California

Contacting Behavioral Health Services

If you would like more program or to make an appointment for an initial confidential consultation please call 650-962-5795.

If you are a health care provider who is referring a patient, please call:
650-962-5795 or toll free 1-866-789-6089.


Electroconvulsive Therapy Services

Electroconvulsive therapy services brochure

Download this brochure on electroconvulsive therapy services at El Camino Hospital.

Information for Provider Referrals