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Electroconvulsive Therapy Substantially Reduces Symptom Severity and Social Disability Associated With Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Case Report

Elberling, Jesper MD, PhD*; Gulmann, Nils MD†; Rasmussen, Alice MD, PhD‡

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e3181cad75b
Case Reports

Background: Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic nonallergic, multisymptom disorder triggered by common environmental chemicals in concentrations considered nontoxic for most individuals. The condition may lead to loss of occupation and social isolation, and no effective treatment has been reported. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe and effective treatment of severe depression and medical conditions such as chronic pain disorders.

Case Report: We report a case of a 45-year-old man with a 5-year history of MCS who had to quit his job to live a solitary life without his wife and children because of the condition. The patient had no history of psychiatric illness and no signs of clinical depression at treatment start. Over a 3-week period, he underwent a course of 8 ECTs, giving a remarkable effect on symptom severity and social functional level. After a partial symptom relapse, maintenance treatment was started with 1 ECT every second week. No memory impairment or other complications of ECT were reported at the 4-month follow-up.

Conclusions: In this case, a substantial, positive effect on symptom severity and social disability related to MCS was obtained by an initial ECT course and maintenance treatment. Electroconvulsive therapy should be considered an option in severe and socially disabling MCS, but more studies are needed to evaluate if ECT can be recommended as a treatment in MCS.

From *The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen; †Department of Psychiatry, Viborg Hospital, and ‡Psychiatric Unit, Bispebjerg University Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Received for publication September 2, 2009; accepted September 8, 2009.

Reprints: Jesper Elberling, MD, PhD, The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Ledreborg Alle 40, 2.th, DK-2820 Gentofte, Denmark (e-mail: jeel@geh.regionh.dk).

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.