Background and Objectives: Ultrabrief (right unilateral) electroconvulsive therapy (UB-RU ECT) is a newer form of ECT, which uses a shorter pulse width than the standard ECT (0.3 vs 1.0 millisecond, respectively). As a result, the use of UB ECT may provide a means of further decreasing ECT-related cognitive adverse effects. In 2011, the University of Texas Southwestern Department of ECT in Austin adopted a UB ECT protocol. The purpose of this study was to perform a preliminary evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of UB-RU ECT. This study also examined whether sex, age, or diagnosis affected response rates.
Methods: This retrospective chart review identified 62 patients treated with the UB ECT protocol. An analysis of ECT response rates and demographic characteristics was conducted based on the data from clinical evaluations and Patient Health Questionnaire 9.
Results: Sixty-eight percent of patients in the study responded to ECT; 55% responded to UB pulse width RU ECT with another 13% responding when switched to standard pulse width bilateral ECT. The mean number of treatments in an index ECT series was 12.5. There was no statistically significant difference in response rates between bipolar and unipolar depressed patients. Men required progression to bilateral treatment more than women.
Conclusions: This UB ECT protocol demonstrated a similar response rate when compared to standard ECT protocols; however, an increase in the number of treatments was required. Ultrabrief protocols are a viable option for both bipolar and unipolar depression. In men, UB ECT protocols may be less advantageous due to a need to overcome a potentially higher seizure threshold in men; however, additional research is needed to confirm this finding.