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Electroconvulsive therapy improves mood, quality of life

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) improves mood, quality of life and activities of daily living in patients with major depression, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, "Quality of life and function are improved in ECT patients as early as two weeks after the conclusion of ECT," said Vaughn McCall, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the lead author, writing in the November issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

ECT is a treatment for severe mental illness, especially major depression, in which a brief application of electric stimulus a shock is used to produce a generalized seizure.

"ECT produces a net improvement in health for most patients, and should help fill the knowledge gap that recently led to more restrictive guidance on the use of ECT in the United Kingdom," said McCall. "A restrictive attitude toward ECT is not warranted."

Britain's National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) last year recommended sharp restrictions on the use of electroconvulsive therapy "until more information is available about ECT's effect on memory, quality of life and other pertinent health outcomes."

NICE, an arm of Britain's National Health Service, said ECT should be used "only to achieve rapid and short-term improvements of severe symptoms after other treatment options have failed and/or when the condition is considered to be potentially life threatening in individuals with severe depressive illness, catatonia or a prolonged or severe manic episode."

The study at Wake Forest Baptist included 77 patients with major depression, and the effects of depression were confirmed by use of several psychiatric measuring scales, some answered by the patients and some by clinicians. These tests were completed before and immediately after ECT and again at two weeks and four weeks after ECT.

McCall said that 66 per
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
1-Nov-2004


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