Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a very effective treatment of major depressive disorder. However, its use has been declining over the years in the United Kingdom, where it is now reserved for cases where all other treatment options have failed. We wanted to assess whether ECT is still highly effective in such a severely treatment-resistant population.
We report results from an ongoing, prospectively conducted, naturalistic study examining the effectiveness of ECT at a general psychiatric hospital in Cardiff, United Kingdom. We present results on every patient who received ECT between March 2004 and August 2006 for major depressive episodes, had a baseline 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD24) score of greater than or equal to 18 and consented for participation.
We analyzed the results of 38 patients who had at least 6 ECT sessions or achieved remission earlier. They had spent on average 14.6 months in their current episodes and 6.2 years of their lifetime in depression. They had failed to respond to an average of 5.4 different pharmacological treatments. Twenty-five patients (65.8%) responded (improvement in HDRS24 of ≥50%) and 21 (53.3%) achieved remission (end point HDRS24 score ≤10 and improvement in HDRS24 of ≥60%). There was no correlation between the number of unsuccessful antidepressant trials and improvement (r = −0.04, P = 0.8).
The ECT is still highly effective in severely treatment-resistant patients with major depressive disorder, with more than half of such patients achieving remission.