Resolution of suicidal ideation for patients with major depressive disorder is an important public health challenge. We aimed to determine whether electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or fluoxetine was more efficacious in resolving suicidal ideation and achieving long-term protective effect against suicidality.
The data used in this study were drawn from 2 open-label trials for major depressive disorder patients receiving ECT or fluoxetine for acute treatment, together with continuation medication in the 12-week follow-up. We compared the effects of ECT and fluoxetine on suicidal ideation as scored by the suicide item on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.
The differences between these 2 groups in time to resolution of suicidal ideation (suicide item = 0) in the acute treatment period, and time to relapse of suicidal ideation (suicide item score ≥1 or rehospitalization for suicidality) in the follow-up period were analyzed. Electroconvulsive therapy–treated patients (n = 111) had significantly shorter time to resolution of suicidal ideation than fluoxetine-treated patients (n = 114) during acute treatment. However, there was no statistically significant difference in time to relapse of suicidal ideation between 2 groups in the 12-week follow-up period.
Electroconvulsive therapy was superior to fluoxetine in resolving suicidal ideation during acute treatment. Therefore, ECT should be an early consideration for suicidal patients. Electroconvulsive therapy and fluoxetine were equally effective in preventing recurrence of suicidal ideation in the 12-week follow-up period. Routine suicide risk assessments from hospital care to outpatient care are required to identify any signs of suicidal relapse.