Electroconvulsive Treatment in Adolescents with Pharmacotherapy–Refractory Depression
The effectiveness and safety of ECT in pharmacotherapy-refractory depression was examined in 11 hospitalized adolescents (ages 16.3 +/- 1.7 years, 10 females) with a primary DSM-III-R diagnosis of mood disorder, which had failed to respond to three or more adequate trials of antidepressant pharmacotherapy. After a thorough diagnostic evaluation, patients received a course of ECT involving 11.2 +/- 2.0 (range 8-15) administrations. ECT was commenced with bilateral treatment in 2 adolescents and nondominant right electrode placement in 9 patients; 5 of the 9 patients were subsequently changed to bilateral treatment. All 11 patients improved to a clinically significant degree. Significant improvements were noted in scores on the Children Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDSR-R) and the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF) (p < 0.05). Euthymia, defined as CDRS-R score < or = 40, was achieved by 64% (7/11) of patients. The Mini-Mental State Examination showed no significant decline in cognitive functioning. Neuropsychological testing completed in 5 subjects both before ECT and 1-5 days after the last treatment, indicated a significant decline in attention, concentration, and long-term memory search. Minor side effects, experienced within the first 12 hours of treatment, were headache (80% of patients) and nausea/vomiting (64%). The potentially serious complication of tardive seizure (after full recovery of consciousness) occurred in 1 adolescent. Prolonged seizures (> 2.5 minutes) were noted in 7 of the 11 patients (9.6% of the 135 ECT administrations). Pending further research on ECT in youth, it is recommended that ECT should only be administered to youth in hospital settings, that all regularly administered psychotropic medications (including antidepressants) be discontinued before ECT and restarted after the final administration of ECT, and that physicians be aware that 12 treatments are usually sufficient, but that 15 treatments may occasionally be necessary for treating depressed adolescents. With the understanding that scientific evaluation of ECT in youth is lacking, it appears that ECT can be an effective and relatively safe treatment for depressed adolescents who have failed to respond to antidepressant pharmacotherapy.
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