A review of continuation and maintenance electroconvulsive therapy

Rabheru, Kiran; Persad, Emmanuel; Rabheru, K; Persad, E
June 1997
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry;Jun1997, Vol. 42 Issue 5, p476
Academic Journal
journal article
Background: Many patients with major psychiatric disorders who are severely ill, medication-resistant, or medication-intolerant respond more reliably and quickly to a course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The management of such patients after successful treatment with ECT is of significant importance given the high rate of relapse and recurrence of these disorders. The unmet clinical need to maintain the mental health of these seriously ill patients at an optimal level has revived the interest in ECT as an alternative prophylactic treatment.Method: We review the historical background of ECT and the literature that supports its use as a prophylactic treatment in various disorders and special populations. A clinical summary outlining its efficacy, acceptability, risks, cost-effectiveness, and medicolegal aspects is followed by a guide for prescribing ECT for prophylactic reasons.Results: Continuation and maintenance ECT (C/MECT) has been found to be efficacious, safe, well tolerated, and cost-effective. Its greatest impact has been in reducing relapse, recurrence, and rehospitalization, particularly in the management of recurrent mood disorders in the elderly. The elderly are usually refractory or intolerant to pharmacotherapy but have a good response to ECT during the index episode. Parkinson's disease (PD), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as affective disorders coexisting with dementia, neurological disorder, or mental retardation, have also been reported to respond to C/MECT. The outcome depends greatly on rate of compliance. Cognitive risk of C/MECT need to be further studied because the literature to date consists mostly of case reports and anecdotal evidence. Controlled studies with well-defined outcome measurements are needed.Conclusions: When planning a rational approach to the care of patients with major psychiatric disorders, clinicians should carefully consider ECT along with other alternatives.


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