Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a well-established treatment option in case of severe and treatment-resistant psychiatric conditions. In this retrospective study, we compared the 2 anesthetics propofol and thiopental in terms of seizure quality, cognitive adverse effects, and clinical outcome.
Data collection was performed retrospectively by a chart review, including patient files and medical records. A total of 64 patients (female = 60.9%) treated with ECT within the period of February 2019 to March 2020 were included. Of these, 35 (54.7%) received thiopental for ECT narcosis and 29 (45.3%) were treated with propofol.
Six hundred sixteen ECT treatments (mean number per case, 9.6) were performed in total. The mean electroencephalogram seizure duration (38.3 vs 28.1 seconds, t = 3.534, degrees of freedom [df] = 62, P < 0.001) and motor seizure duration (21.5 vs 12.0, t = 4.336, df = 62, P < 0.001) as well as postictal suppression index and heart rate increase were significantly higher in the thiopental group. Mean stimulation energy needed per session was higher in the propofol group (88.6% vs 73.0%, Mann-Whitney U test, P = 0.042). The ECT series was more likely to be interrupted due to cognitive adverse effects in the thiopental group (P = 0.001, Pearson χ2 = 10.514, df = 1). Number of patients achieving remission was significantly higher in the thiopental group (31.4% vs 6.9%, P = 0.015, χ2 = 5.897, df = 1).
Thiopental led to better seizure duration and quality and was associated with a higher rate of remission. As a downside, thiopental was also associated with a greater risk of cognitive adverse effects.