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Electroconvulsive therapy improves quality of life for at least six months

Study Short Form before ECT, several days after ECT, and again 24 weeks later. Before the ECT treatment, the authors said, health-related quality of life was very low: for example a measure called "vitality" was 20.4, "social functioning" was 22.8, and "emotional" was 6.4. Six months later, vitality was 40.1, social functioning was 55.2 and emotional was 42.8.

"All these scales have a range of scores from 0 to 100 with 100 being fully functional and zero indicating a complete deficit," McCall said.

Overall, at 24 weeks, 78 percent of the patients had improved quality of life. While the study did not extend beyond six months, McCall said that in earlier studies he reported improvements in quality of life persist for a year in most patients after ECT.

McCall said the evidence from the current study and his earlier ones at Wake Forest counters the argument of those who would like to severely restrict ECT.

"Some agencies have recommended that ECT be restricted in use because of perceived gaps in knowledge regarding it effects of health-related quality of life," McCall said. He noted that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom recommended limits on ECT, pending more information, especially on the impact of ECT on quality of life.

"Our results indicate that a restrictive public policy toward ECT is not warranted on the basis of the effect of ECT on quality of life," McCall said.

He said there were side effects to ECT. Most patients experience temporary learning difficulties for up to two weeks after ECT. Permanent memory loss of the events in the few months preceding ECT is also common, he said.


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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
13-Feb-2006


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