Background and Objective:
ECT is one of the most efficacious treatments for catatonic schizophrenia. However, there has been no study on the efficacy of ECT in elderly patients with catatonic schizophrenia. Thus, we conducted prospective studies on the short-term (phase 1 study) and long-term (phase 2 study) effects of acute ECT on intractable catatonic schizophrenia in middle-aged and elderly patients.
Subjects and Methods:
The phase 1 study included 11 consecutive patients over 45 years of age who fulfilled the DSM-IV criteria for catatonic schizophrenia and were referred to Tohoku University Hospital for the first time for acute ECT between January 1, 1998, and August 31, 2003, after other treatments had failed. We evaluated the clinical response of these patients to acute ECT by means of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). We also evaluated adverse effects of acute ECT. The patient or guardian provided written informed consent. Exclusion criterion was a history of dementia or substance abuse. Patients were considered clinical responders if they had a BPRS score ;ek 25 for 1 week after the final ECT session. The phase 2 study included 11 consecutive patients who responded to acute ECT in the phase 1 study. Patients provided written informed consent. Patients' BPRS scores were evaluated weekly (18 items, rated 0–6) for 48 weeks or until relapse/recurrence, during which time they received pharmacotherapy. Patients were considered clinical “relapsers” if they had a BPRS score of at least 37 for 3 consecutive days. Differences in clinical characteristics between patients with and without recurrence were analyzed statistically by the Mann-Whitney U test.
All 11 patients completed the phase 1 study, and the acute ECT response rate was 100%. No patient experienced a severe adverse cognitive or physical effect during the course of acute ECT. All 11 patients also completed the phase 2 study. The mean dose of continuation neuroleptics in all 11 cases was 296.8 ± 277.6 mg (range, 0–982 mg) (chlorpromazine [CPZ] equivalent). Relapse occurred in 7 cases, and all occurred within 6 months. The 1-year recurrence rate was 63.6%. The mean (±SD) relapse prevention time in the 7 cases was 76.0 ± 64.7 days (range, 11–163 days). A significant difference in daily neuroleptic dose before acute ECT was found between the patients suffering recurrence and those not suffering recurrence (766.7 ± 521.8 CPZ-equivalent mg with recurrence versus 101.9 ± 75.2 CPZ-equivalent mg without recurrence, U = 2.0, P = 0.923). There was a trend toward a lower Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score just before ECT (7.3 ± 4.0 with recurrence versus 16.8 ± 11.2 without recurrence, U = 4.5, P = 0.073).
The short-term efficacy of acute ECT for middle-aged and elderly patients with intractable catatonic schizophrenia is excellent. However, the 1-year recurrence rate, especially the 6-month relapse rate, after response to acute ECT is high, despite continuation pharmacotherapy. The need for more effective relapse-prevention strategies, such as continuation ECT, is urgent.