Objective: To investigate contemporary Dutch practice of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and adherence to national and international ECT guidelines.
Methods: Among psychiatrists from all Dutch ECT sites in university and general hospitals (n = 24) and psychiatric hospitals (n = 11), a survey was conducted regarding (1) characteristics of practitioners and institutions, (2) clinical practice of ECT, and (3) technical aspects of ECT. Adherence to 16 criteria selected from (inter)national guidelines was scored.
Results: Response rate was 94% (all 24 university and general hospitals and 9 of 11 psychiatric hospitals). Most respondents had extensive experience with ECT (median, 10 years; interquartile range, 4-15 years). Annually, approximately 8.5 sessions of ECT per 10,000 inhabitants were administered. In all ECT sites, 24% used exclusively bilateral electrode placement, 26% used ultrabrief pulse width, and 36% used dosage titration methods. Many practitioners had no knowledge of pulse width (42%) or of current characteristics (12%). Of the 16 investigated criteria, 14 were followed in at least 75% of the institutions.
Conclusions: Although still increasing, the use of ECT in the Netherlands remains modest. Electroconvulsive therapy is generally practiced according to (inter)national guidelines. Electroconvulsive therapy is mostly started unilaterally, and generally, age-dependent dosage methods are being used. Knowledge on pulse width and current characteristics is limited. The implementation of updated guidelines might offer the opportunity to further improve practice and stimulate availability of ECT.