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Comparison of Propofol and Thiopental as Anesthetic Agents for Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Randomized, Blinded Comparison of Seizure Duration, Stimulus Charge, Clinical Effect, and Cognitive Side Effects

Bauer, Jeanett MD, PhD*; Hageman, Ida MD*; Dam, Henrik MD*; Báez, Armando MD, PhD‡; Bolwig, Tom MD, DMSc*; Roed, Jakob MD†; Olsen, Niels Vidiendal MD, DMSc†; Jørgensen, Martin Balslev MD, DMSc*

Journal of ECT:
doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e31818a0203
Original Studies

Objectives: To compare propofol and thiopental as anesthetic agents for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) with respect to seizure duration, stimulus charge, clinical effect, and cognitive side effects.

Methods: Randomized, blinded study of 62 depressed patients treated with bilateral ECT. Algorithm-based charge dosing was used.

Results: The mean seizure duration of the patients in the thiopental group was 36.3 seconds versus 25.7 seconds in the propofol group (P = 0.001). The charge per treatment was 79.5 mC in the thiopental group versus 109.8 mC in the propofol group (P = 0.026). Sixteen patients in the propofol group (52%) reached the highest electrical dose versus 8 patients (26%) in the thiopental group (P = 0.014). No difference in response to treatment or number of treatments was observed. The mean score on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was 28.9 in the thiopental group versus 26.8 in the propofol group (P = 0.014). However, age distribution of patients completing the study differed between the groups.

Conclusions: Propofol significantly decreases seizure duration without significant difference in the clinical outcome. Using the employed treatment algorithm, patients anesthetised with propofol received higher electrical charge. Mini-Mental State Examination scores suggest that this results in more severe cognitive side effects. Results, however, might be confounded by the differences in age distribution in the groups.

Author Information

From the *Center of Psychiatry and †Department of Neuroanaesthesiology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark; and ‡Center of Psychiatry, Gentofte Hospital, Hellerup, Denmark.

Received for publication June 7, 2008; accepted August 5, 2008.

Reprints: Jeanett Bauer, MD, PhD, Center of Psychiatry, Rigshospitalet, Blegdamsvej 9, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.