A long-term follow-up of depressed patients responsive to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) with intensive pre-ECT pharmacotherapy treatment failure who also participated in a 6-month trial directly post-ECT in which imipramine was compared with placebo for relapse prevention.
A total of 26 patients responsive to ECT who participated in the 6-month continuation trial were invited 4 to 8 years later to assess their follow-up status. The groups with and without relapse within 6 months were compared with regard to recurrence of depression up to 8 years later. Recurrence was defined as a new episode of depression that needed antidepressant medication and/or readmission in hospital and/or a new ECT course.
At the time of follow-up (mean duration, 6.8 years), the recurrence rate of depression for the total sample was 42.3%. There was no significant difference in the recurrence rates and number of recurrences between the nonrelapse and relapse groups.
The small study population limits generalization of the results; the design of the study is naturalistic and retrospective.
In our small sample of depressed patients with pharmacotherapy treatment failure, recurrence is not influenced by relapse after terminating ECT. Continuation of medication started immediately after ECT seems to be an important factor in preventing recurrence.