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Maintenance ECT as a Therapeutic Approach to Medication-Refractory Epilepsy in an Adult With Mental Retardation: Case Report and Review of Literature

Shah, Nilesh MD, DPM, DNB*; Pande, Nikhil MD*; Bhat, Tushar DPM*; Murke, Mukund MD*; Andrade, Chittaranjan MD

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e31824d1dc0
Case Reports

Background Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) raises the seizure threshold. This physiological change may benefit patients with seizure disorders. Whereas ECT has recently been used to terminate medication-refractory status epilepticus, there is little current literature on its planned administration as a specific maintenance treatment for medication-refractory epilepsy.

Methods We used maintenance ECT to treat an 18-year-old man with a long-standing generalized tonic-clonic seizure disorder who had shown poor response to several antiepileptic drugs administered in combination with antiepileptic medication compliance confirmed through drug level monitoring.

Results A total of 52 ECTs were administered across nearly 20 months at a mean frequency of once in nearly 12 days. From the very outset, ECT dramatically decreased the frequency of spontaneous seizures from approximately 6 to 24 per week at baseline to approximately 1 to 2 per week after ECT initiation. The efficacy of maintenance ECT in spontaneous seizure prophylaxis was greater when the ECT treatment interval was narrower. Improvement with ECT was associated with improved behavior and improved psychosocial functioning on clinical report. No cognitive or other adverse effects were reported or clinically ascertained. The ECT charge administered at the last 10 treatment sessions was 1434 millicoulombs. This is probably the highest electrical stimulus dose recorded in literature.

Conclusions Maintenance ECT may reduce the frequency of breakthrough seizures in patients with seizure disorder that is inadequately responsive to antiepileptic medication regimes. Very high ECT seizure thresholds may be observed when many antiepileptic drugs are concurrently administered in high doses.

From the *Department of Psychiatry, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai; and †Department of Psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India.

Received for publication September 16, 2011; accepted October 14, 2011.

Reprints: Chittaranjan Andrade, MD, Department of Psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore 560 029, India (e-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to report.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.