Background: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) raises the seizure threshold. This physiological change may benefit patients with seizure disorders. Whereas ECT has recently been used to terminate medication-refractory status epilepticus, there is little current literature on its planned administration as a specific maintenance treatment for medication-refractory epilepsy.
Methods: We used maintenance ECT to treat an 18-year-old man with a long-standing generalized tonic-clonic seizure disorder who had shown poor response to several antiepileptic drugs administered in combination with antiepileptic medication compliance confirmed through drug level monitoring.
Results: A total of 52 ECTs were administered across nearly 20 months at a mean frequency of once in nearly 12 days. From the very outset, ECT dramatically decreased the frequency of spontaneous seizures from approximately 6 to 24 per week at baseline to approximately 1 to 2 per week after ECT initiation. The efficacy of maintenance ECT in spontaneous seizure prophylaxis was greater when the ECT treatment interval was narrower. Improvement with ECT was associated with improved behavior and improved psychosocial functioning on clinical report. No cognitive or other adverse effects were reported or clinically ascertained. The ECT charge administered at the last 10 treatment sessions was 1434 millicoulombs. This is probably the highest electrical stimulus dose recorded in literature.
Conclusions: Maintenance ECT may reduce the frequency of breakthrough seizures in patients with seizure disorder that is inadequately responsive to antiepileptic medication regimes. Very high ECT seizure thresholds may be observed when many antiepileptic drugs are concurrently administered in high doses.