The research of the Porto Medical School (FMUP), CINTESIS - Health Technologies and Services Research Centre and the Tâmega e Sousa Hospital Centre (CHTS), to which Lusa had access on 14 April, assessed, for the first time, the use of electroshock in people with psychiatric illness admitted to public hospitals nationwide.

The work concluded that treatment with electroshock is being underused in Portugal, despite being proven "fast, safe and effective" in a number of psychiatric illnesses.

According to the study's author, Manuel Gonçalves-Pinho, physician, researcher and professor at FMUP, "thanks to anaesthesia and current devices, electroconvulsive therapy under anaesthesia is painless for patients and is one of the safest treatments available".

In this "unprecedented" study, published in the international journal The Journal of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), 674 patients treated with electroshock between 2008 and 2015 in Portuguese public hospitals were identified.

In total, 879 hospitalisations were recorded, severe (major) depression was the main diagnosis (19.6 percent), followed by bipolar disorder.

As for the rate of use of this therapy in inpatients, this work indicates that it was only 0.71 percent over eight years.

"This rate is relatively low when compared with other European countries. It is necessary to demystify some preconceptions, not only among the population in general, but also within the medical community itself", says Pedro Mota, also an author of the study.

The researchers refer that "there is a stigma and unjustified fear of this therapy motivated by the lack of knowledge regarding the technique used and by outdated historical reports that the therapy would be painful and with significant adverse effects".

Treatment with electroshock consists of alterations in the electrical activity in the brain, and is carried out under general anaesthetic.

It is currently indicated in antidepressant-resistant depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, epilepsy, among other diseases.

The procedure requires between six and 12 sessions to produce the desired therapeutic effect.

Inserted in the project "1st.IndiQare", this work had the participation of Manuel Gonçalves-Pinho (FMUP/CINTESIS/CHTS), Pedro Mota, João Pedro Ribeiro and Silvério Macedo (CHTS), Jorge Mota (Portuguese Society of ECT) and Alberto Freitas (FMUP/CINTESIS).

The "1st.IndiQare" has funding from FEDER - European Regional Development Fund, through COMPETE 2020 and the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).