Electroconvulsive Therapy Program

ECT brochure

Download our brochure to find out more about the ECT Program at UCSF.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is available for people suffering from particular behavioral and emotional disturbances, including some forms of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. It is most often used in the treatment of severe depression that has not responded to medications and psychotherapy. This treatment is offered through a partnership between Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics and the Ambulatory Services Center at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights.

Services

Evaluation for ECT includes psychiatric and physical assessment and an informational exchange with interested patients and their families, where appropriate. The steps for receiving an evaluation for ECT include:

  • Referral by primary psychiatrist
  • Initial evaluation by an ECT psychiatrist
    • We strong encourage family members to attend.
    • UCSF is a teaching hospital, so expect that psychiatric residents and medical students may be involved in your care.
  • Pre-operative evaluation by UCSF Anesthesia (PrePare clinic)
    • This is scheduled by the ECT Program coordinator following the initial evaluation.
  • Orientation to the ECT procedure area
    • Conducted by the ECT Program coordinator on the same day as the PrePare clinic appointment.
       

Treatment is a series of 6–15 treatments occurring on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. ECT treatments occur in the morning and about three hours from the time of arrival until discharge. After each treatment session, the patient must be picked up by a friend or family member.

Insurance coverage

ECT is generally covered by health insurance providers. However, not all providers will cover ECT treatments at UCSF (even if the initial evaluation is covered). This is because many insurance providers have preferred, contracted ECT centers.

We will obtain insurance authorization prior to the beginning of treatment. If your insurance will not cover ECT treatment through our program, we will help direct you to other covered facilities.

Referrals for appointments

Patients referred for ECT must have a primary treating psychiatrist who is board-eligible or board-certified. The referring psychiatrist should email any of the following providers:

Please note that email is not confidential. We suggest sending only a brief email or leaving a message with your email address so our staff can contact you via a secure messaging system.

Once the referring psychiatrist has contacted our program, they will be asked to provide the following information:

  • A brief description of your condition, diagnosis, reason for referral, and any other special information
  • Your medication history - a list of medications tried, with dosages and efficacy/side effects, if available. Also whether transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or ketamine has been tried or considered. (This is helpful for insurance authorization purposes.)
  • Results of a Montreal Cognitive Assessment, if available
     

Forms

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