Profoundly depressed states of awareness classified as either catatonia or akinetic mutism have been reported in patients with various general medical conditions including encephalitis, frontal lobe tumors, or paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis. Catatonic features are often difficult to apprise in this context. This can result in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) discontinuation, although it remains the most effective treatment of catatonia.
We describe the case of a patient with a history of unresectable right retroorbital squamous cell carcinoma, status poststereotactic radiation and cisplatin, and subsequent pneumococcal meningitis of the temporal lobe with abscess formation who became catatonic after receiving 3 bitemporal treatments with ECT for severe depression and whose catatonia improved with continued ECT. Furthermore, she demonstrated progressive improvement in mood, interactivity, and overall neurologic function after ECT treatment was completed.
The search for an etiology of a profound catatonic state should include the probability of underlying medical disorder. Although lorazepam may be helpful in some cases, ECT deserves early consideration in catatonia, especially in cases where the underlying cause seems to be uncertain, even if the catatonia begins in the midst of treatment.
From the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Received for publication August 10, 2009; accepted September 14, 2009.
Reprints: Magdalena Romanowicz, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).