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Electroconvulsive Therapy in China: Clinical Practice and Research on Efficacy

Tang, Yi-lang MD, PhD*†; Jiang, Wei MD; Ren, Yan-ping MD, PhD†§; Ma, Xin MD†§; Cotes, Robert O. MD*; McDonald, William M. MD*

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e31825957b1

Objective Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was first introduced in China in the early 1950s and has evolved into a significant psychiatric treatment. Research from Chinese psychiatrists provides important clinical data for ECT practitioners. However, most of the research has only been published in Chinese language journals. This article summarizes data from publications in the Chinese scientific community related to the clinical practice of ECT and research on efficacy in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Methods Descriptive study primarily based on Chinese language literature identified from searches of the China National Knowledge Infrastructure and the Medline databases (1979–2012).

Results More than 900 journal papers on ECT have been published in the Chinese language between 1979 and 2012. Currently, modified ECT has replaced unmodified ECT, and treatments were performed both in inpatient and outpatient settings. Electroconvulsive therapy is primarily used for the treatment of schizophrenia and mood disorders and has been shown to be very effective in both. The primary use of ECT in China is in the treatment of schizophrenia. The Chinese literature provides a rich database on the efficacy of modified and unmodified ECT, with and without adjunctive antipsychotics, in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Conclusion The Chinese medical literature provides an important database that will help advance the practice of ECT in both China and the international community.

From the *Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA; †Department of Research and Education, ‡Center for Modified Electroconvulsive Therapy, Capital Medical University,and §Center for Electrophysiological Testing and Treatment, Beijing, China.

Received for publication July 29, 2011; accepted March 20, 2012.

Reprints: Yan-ping Ren, MD, PhD, Department of Research and Education, and Center for Electrophysiological Testing and Treatment, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China 100088 (e-mail:

Drs Tang and Jiang contributed equally to this article.

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

This study was supported in part by a grant from Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 7113158 to Y-PR) and the grant of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.81071102 to XM).

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.