Despite the continued wide use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), there is little empirical research documenting numbers and characteristics of recipients of ECT, or the number of ECT administrations in various jurisdictions. This study aimed to further develop an Australian perspective on the practice of ECT, with particular emphasis on its use with children and older adults.
The Mental Health Information System of Western Australia (WA) and records from State psychiatric hospitals were examined for data on ECT use over the period from 1997 to 2001.
Most Western Australia recipients of ECT were adult women who were diagnosed with affective disorders. Although the number of ECT recipients rose dramatically each year, ECT usage appeared to be a constant proportion of the psychiatric population in WA during a 5-year period in association with increased numbers of psychiatric patients.
Use of ECT in WA was at a lower rate than previously reported for Victoria, and notably lower than for older adults in NSW. As in most recent surveys, affective disorders were the most common diagnosis among recipients of ECT. The creation of a more comprehensive State ECT register is recommended to allow more accurate estimations of the frequency of ECT administrations in future, and facilitate more effective and efficient monitoring of ECT practice.