DEAR DR. DONOHUE: In the past two years a friend has tried several different medicines for depression and anxiety. So far nothing has worked for him. I recently heard that electroconvulsive therapy, ECT, is an effective treatment. Will you please shed some light on this? — R.O.
ANSWER: ECT — electroconvulsive therapy, which is also called electroshock therapy — is an excellent treatment for depression, especially depression that doesn't respond to medicines and talk therapy. The names for this treatment — electroconvulsive, electroshock — generate fright. Someone ought to come up with a better name. Equally frightening are the depictions of ECT in movies.
No longer is the treatment a scene of dread to onlookers. The patient is anesthetized and feels no pain. Muscle relaxants stop the thrashing that signaled the onset of the convulsion. No muscle movement is now seen. The only evidence of it is recorded on brain-wave tracings. If you viewed a treatment, you would ask when it was going to take place. You wouldn't believe that anything had happened.
Memory loss also is a stumbling point for potential patients. The memory of facts stored in the brain is not affected by this treatment. Personal memories of past events might be hazy for a time, but most of them return.
A depressed person not responding to medicines and talk therapy runs the risk of suicide, a much greater risk than anything induced by ECT.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband was told he had hepatitis C. He took one year of treatment for it. Then he got diagnosed with cancer. He made a recovery from surgery in a year. Now his hepatitis C is back, and he is scheduled for another year of treatment.
I got checked for hepatitis C, and the test was negative. I got rechecked when he was told that his hepatitis had come back. Again, it was negative. But the doctor said I had one point on my liver that could be liver or bone. What does she mean? — W.W.
ANSWER: I must admit I don't have a clue what the doctor means. Give her a call and tell her that you (and I) don't understand what she's talking about.
I'm sorry your husband has had a relapse of hepatitis C. However, it has happened at a good time. Two new hepatitis C drugs, boceprevir (Victrelis) and telapravir (Incivek), are quite effective in getting rid of this disease. Either of these drugs is given with the same drugs your husband received previously. These new drugs are major advances in the treatment of hepatitis C, even for those who relapsed after their initial therapy.
The booklet on hepatitis explains the three different kinds. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 503, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have never seen an article on gastroparesis. How does one live with it? I took erythromycin, but it gave me heart palpitations. I continue to lose weight. How can I gain some? I drink Ultimate Meal once a day. My doctor doesn't want me on Reglan because it caused problems for many of his patients. Please help. — M.H.
ANSWER: "Gastroparesis" indicates that the stomach empties very slowly. Normally, one-third to 90 percent of food leaves the stomach in one hour; by four hours, all food should have left it. Gastroparesis nauseates people. The stomach bloats and becomes uncomfortable. Small, frequent meals that are low in fat are better tolerated. Reglan is the only medicine in the U.S., in addition to erythromycin, that is approved for gastroparesis. Have you tried milkshakes? They have a good calorie load and will stop your weight loss. Or how about another supplement similar to Ultimate Meal? I don't mean to stop Ultimate Meal. I mean add another meal supplement to it during the day. Ensure is an example.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.