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ECT in Texas: 19 Months of Mandatory Reporting

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(1):8-13

Background: Texas law requires that all non-federal clinical facilities providing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) report every treatment to the state's mental health agency. The resulting data provide total population information about treating physicians and hospitals; payment source; patient age, sex, ethnicity, diagnosis, and admission/consent status; symptom severity and response; numbers and types of treatments; and untoward events occurring within 14 days after treatment.

Method: We reviewed all reports of ECT between September 1993 and April 1995 (2583 reports, approximately 15,240 treatments).

Results: About 6% (N=117) of Texas psychiatrists performed ECT during the period, at 50 hospitals. One of 13 state-funded mental institutions performed ECT on-site; some occasionally contracted with private hospitals. Almost all patients (88.1%) were white. Some older age groups received proportionately more ECT than younger groups, but no sharp increase was associated with eligibility for Medicare. Five patients were less than 18 years of age; 70.3% were female. Virtually all patients (99.0%) consented to the treatment themselves (rather than by guardian), including committed-but-consenting patients (1.5%). Reports (5.8%) described multiple-monitored treatment (MMECT, not depatterning). Group data indicated generally good-to-excellent response, as measured by a five-point symptom-severity scale. Eight patients died within 14 days of a treatment, 2 possibly of anesthesia complications and 3 others in accidents or by suicide. Four were receiving maintenance treatments (generally about every other week). No death appeared related to ECT stimulus or seizure.

Conclusion: ECT in Texas is performed by a small minority of psychiatrists and is unavailable to many patients who need it. It is most accessible to white patients who receive care outside the public sector. Our data support the common finding that ECT is generally safe and effective.