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Original Research

Treatment Outcomes of Electroconvulsive Therapy for Depressed Patients With and Without Borderline Personality Disorder: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Agustin G. Yip, MD, PhDa,*; Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhDa; Fernando Rodriguez-Villa, MDa; Shan H. Siddiqi, MDb; and Steven J. Seiner, MDa

Published: January 19, 2021

Article Abstract

Background: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the gold-standard treatment for refractory depression. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is generally considered a poor predictor of treatment response. We sought to assess symptom-severity outcomes among depressed patients with (BPD+) and without (BPD-) comorbid BPD undergoing acute phase ECT.

Methods: The study sample consisted of at least moderately depressed patients who received an acute course of ECT from January 2011 to December 2016 at an academic, freestanding psychiatric hospital. Participants completed a DSM-IV-validated BPD screening instrument at baseline. Measures of DSM-IV depressive symptom severity from the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self Report (QIDS-SR) were taken serially on 4 occasions. Outcomes of interest comprised total QIDS-SR score trajectory, QIDS-SR suicidality subscore, and symptom cluster subscores posited to differentiate response among antidepressant treatments.

Results: Of the 693 individuals who met study inclusion criteria, 145 (20.9%) screened positive for BPD. Overall, ECT was associated with significant improvement of depressive symptoms (χ21 = 504.8, P < .0001). Despite differing from BPD- individuals on key baseline features, BPD+ individuals responded to ECT with similar improvement in overall depression severity (χ21 = 0.22, P = .64), suicidality (χ21 = 1.63, P = .20), and core emotional (χ21 = 0.63, P = .43), sleep (χ21 = 0.20, P = .65), and atypical (χ21 = 1.30, P = .25) symptoms after 15 treatments. Post hoc analysis indicated a slightly less robust overall response among the BPD+ group by the 15th treatment.

Conclusions: Acute course ECT benefits depressed patients with or without comorbid BPD, although patients with BPD may exhibit less pronounced improvement over time.

Volume: 82

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