With the increased administration of outpatient electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), it is important to develop methods for monitoring patients for adverse effects of treatment. This pilot study was designed to evaluate the utility of using telephone assessments to determine whether patents receiving maintenance ECT (MECT) experience cognitive deficits related to individual treatments.
Patients were recruited from an existing population of outpatients receiving MECT. The consenting patients were called on three occasions and given a battery of telephone cognitive assessments including Orientation-Memory-Concentration, Buschke Selective Reminding, Verbal Fluency, “World” Backwards, Serial Sevens, and Wechsler Logical Memory. The occasions for the telephone interviews were the day before ECT, the day after a treatment, and a week later.
Sixteen patients completed the study. The correlation between baseline and time 3 ranged from 1.00 for spelling “world” backward to 0.509 for Verbal Fluency Category, indicating considerable variability in test-retest reliability. One test, Verbal Fluency Category, showed group level effects, with decrements in performance the day after a treatment. One of the 16 patients showed global cognitive deficits the day after a treatment.
The pilot results suggest that telephone assessment may be a useful approach for monitoring patients receiving outpatient ECT. Monitoring may serve to guide clinicians in advising individuals and their caregivers about the return to activities after an individual treatment. Overall these findings support the tolerability of MECT.