Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective treatment for depression, but the standard 2 to 3 times weekly treatment course results in a total treatment duration of >2 weeks. We explored the viability of decreasing treatment duration by using daily right unilateral ultrabrief (RULUB) ECT instead of standard bitemporal (BT) ECT.
This study involved a retrospective review of records of inpatients 18 to 64 years of age who were treated between 2012 and 2017 at a large tertiary ECT center. Lead placement/technique, treatment duration (days from first to last ECT), number of ECT treatments, and scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HamD-24) were collected. Statistical analysis was performed using 1-way analysis of variance and t tests.
Of 214 patients, 112 started daily RULUB ECT (86 were completers and 26 were eventually switched to BT), and 83 started and completed BT ECT. Daily RULUB completers finished their course of ECT 6.5 days faster than those who received BT ECT (11.7 vs. 18.2 d, P<0.0001), while the number of ECT treatments did not significantly differ between the 2 groups (daily RULUB 8.6 treatments vs. BT 8.3 treatments, P=0.4402). There were no significant differences in the final PHQ-9 or HamD-24 depression scores between the 2 groups. One case of significant cognitive impairment was observed in the daily RULUB group.
Daily RULUB ECT compared with BT ECT allowed depression to be treated faster and with similar efficacy. Randomized controlled trials, which include the use of formal cognitive and physical side effect measures, are needed to further explore the viability of daily RULUB ECT.