The cardiovascular risk of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a product of the stress of ECT itself and the severity and stability of coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as other cardiovascular factors. ECT itself represents a relatively low-risk procedure. Patient-specific risk can be defined by a combination of clinical evaluation and noninvasive testing, much of which is aimed at detecting the presence and staging the severity and stability of CAD. Patients at high risk of a cardiac complication include those with severe or unstable symptoms of CAD, and they should undergo extensive cardiac evaluation before ECT. Patients at low risk likely need no further evaluation and can undergo ECT. Patients at intermediate risk should have careful clinical evaluation, and most likely noninvasive evaluation, which should include some form of stress testing. Medical therapy should be continued and/or maximized in all patients with CAD. It is expected that with careful screening, patients with established CAD can undergo ECT safely.
Received January 16, 1997; accepted May 12, 1997.
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