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Original Research

One-Year Follow-Up After Successful ECT: A Naturalistic Study in Depressed Inpatients

Tom K. Birkenhäger, M.D.; Jan-Willem Renes, M.D.; and Esther M. Pluijms, M.D.

Published: January 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Background: The aim of this study is to examine both long-term efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and the predictive value of adequate pre-ECT pharmacotherapy and the presence of delusions in relation to post-ECT relapse in patients who suffered from DSM-III-R major depression.

Method: Forty responders (a decrease in Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score >= 50%) to ECT were followed for 1 year, the majority (N = 28) prospectively and the remainder (N = 12) retrospectively. Relapse was defined as readmission, an obvious decline in social functioning, or a change of antidepressant medication caused by a clear worsening of depressive symptoms.

Results: Both 6- and 12-month post-ECT relapse was significantly lower in patients with delusional depression compared with nondelusional patients: 3/24 (12%) versus 8/15 (53%) and 5/24 (21%) versus 11/15 (73%), respectively. Relapse rates for the whole sample were 11/39 (28%) at 6 months and 16/39 (41%) at 12 months. Regarding the impact of adequate pre-ECT antidepressant trials on relapse, our data are inconclusive, because only a few patients did not receive adequate pharmacotherapy prior to ECT.

Conclusion: The remarkable finding of the present study is the favorable 1-year outcome for patients with delusional depression. The relapse rate for patients adequately pretreated with antidepressants (45% over 1 year) is somewhat more favorable than expected.

Volume: 65

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