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Safety of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Patients With a History of Heart Failure and Decreased Left Ventricular Systolic Heart Function

Rivera, Fernando A. MD*; Lapid, Maria I. MD; Sampson, Shirlene MD; Mueller, Paul S. MD*

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e318223beed
Original Studies

Objectives: Patients with heart failure may experience psychiatric disorders for which electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is indicated. Little is known, however, about the safety of ECT in these patients. We assessed the safety of ECT in patients with a history of heart failure and decreased left ventricular systolic heart function.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of the medical records of 35 patients with a history of heart failure and reduced left ventricular systolic heart function who underwent ECT at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, between January 1995 and December 2009.

Results: Of the 35 patients, 18 (51%) were women. The median age was 77 years (range, 54-92 years). The median left ventricular ejection fraction was 30% (range, 15%-40%). The 35 patients underwent 513 ECT sessions (median number of sessions per patient, 10; range, 1-44). The 35 patients tolerated ECT well. No patient died or experienced decompensated heart failure, myocardial ischemia, or myocardial infarction during or within 24 hours after an ECT session. Prophylactic intravenous β-blockers were given to patients who, during previous ECT sessions, had marked hypertension (eg, systolic blood pressure >180-200 mm Hg) or a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute; overall, this prophylaxis was used in 26 patients during 413 ECT sessions (80% of the total number of ECT sessions). Three patients experienced temporary, non-life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

Conclusions: Electroconvulsive therapy was safe in 35 patients with a history of heart failure and decreased left ventricular systolic heart function treated at our institution.

From the *Division of General Internal Medicine, and †Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Received for publication March 21, 2011; accepted April 20, 2011.

Reprints: Fernando A. Rivera, MD, Division of General Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905 (e-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.