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Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Parkinson Disease With Residual Axial Symptoms Partially Unresponsive to L-Dopa: A Pilot Study

Pintor, Luis PhD, MD*; Valldeoriola, Francesc PhD, MD; Fernández-Egea, Emilio PhD, MD*; Sánchez, Roberto MD; Rami, Lorena MS, PhD; Tolosa, Eduardo MD, PhD; Muñiz, Armando MD*; Martí, María José MD, PhD; Bernardo, Miguel MD, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e31823c98c0
Original Studies

Introduction Mental dysfunction and especially gait disorders, such as freezing and postural instability in “on phase,” are partially unresponsive to dopaminergic therapy late in the course of Parkinson disease (PD). Some of them have been related to decreased sensitivity of postsynaptic dopaminergic receptors, and it is known that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) enhances the sensitivity of these receptors. The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety of ECT in patients with advanced Parkinson disease with symptoms partially unresponsive to L-dopa.

Methods Neurologic (Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire, Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, Tinetti Scale, and the Sit-to-Stand test), psychiatric (structured interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) and neuropsychological (Mini Mental State Examination, executive functions, declarative and procedural memory, visual processing, and reaction time) evaluation was performed on 9 patients with a diagnosis of L-dopa–resistant PD by the Movement Disorders Working Group. This evaluation was done before and after 8 sessions of bitemporal ECT. Six patients completed the study.

Results Statistically significant differences were found in the number of steps and freezing episodes in the on phase when they were compared before and after the ECT administration. However, no statistically significant differences were found in the “off” phenomena, motor fluctuations, or dyskinesias before and after ECT administration. No patient showed psychiatric symptoms before, during, or after the ECT. No statistically significant differences were observed in the neuropsychological results between the pretreatment and posttreatment evaluations. All patients showed transient amnesia after the ECT administration, which lasted for 48 hours.

Conclusions Electroconvulsive therapy could be a safe and effective therapeutic option in L-dopa–resistant patients with PD with predominantly axial “on” phenomena; nevertheless, it needs to be confirmed in later studies.

From the *Psychiatry Department, and †Neurology Department, Institut de Neurociències, Hospital Clínic i Provincial de Barcelona, Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Barcelona; and ‡Psychiatry Department. Parc de Salut Mar, Institut de Neuropsiquiatria i Addiccions, Centres Assistencials Emili Mira, Barcelona, Spain.

Received for publication July 14, 2011; accepted October 11, 2011.

Reprints: Luis Pérez Pintor, PhD, MD, Psychiatry Department, Neuroscience Institute, Hospital Clínico de Barcelona, C/ Villarroel 170, 08036 Barcelona, Spain (e-mail:

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

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.