Cognitive Side Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Adolescents
The primary aim of this study was to determine the presence of cognitive impairments among adolescents treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and whether these deficits would persist several months following the treatment.
Retrospective data resulting from standard clinical care of a convenience sample with naturalistic follow-up were used. Subjects were 16 adolescents (13 females, 3 males; mean age = 15.9 +/- 1.6 years) hospitalized with a mood disorder (unipolar depression = 14, bipolar depression = 2). Cognitive tests administered prior to ECT were compared with results at 7.0 +/- 10.3 days following the last treatment and with a second testing at 8.5 +/- 4.9 months after the last treatment.
Comparison of pre-ECT and the first post-ECT testing administered during the first 10 days of the treatment yielded significant impairments of concentration and attention, verbal- and visual-delayed recall, and verbal fluency. A complete recovery of these functions was noted at the second post-ECT testing. There was no deficit in the ability to problem solve during the initial or the subsequent testing.
Cognitive parameters found to be impaired during the first few days of ECT recovered over several months following the treatment. Therefore, there was no evidence of long-term damage to concentration, attention, verbal and visual memory, or verbal fluency. There were no impairments of motor strength and executive processing, even during the early (within 7-10 days) post-ECT period. These results should be regarded as preliminary, awaiting confirmation with larger samples.
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