Racial differences in the availability and use of electroconvulsive therapy for recurrent major depression

Health Services Research Program, Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital, East Providence, RI 02915, United States.
Journal of Affective Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.38). 12/2011; 136(3):359-65. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.11.026
Source: PubMed


Black Americans with depression were less likely to receive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) than whites during the 1970s and 80s. This pattern was commonly attributed to treatment of blacks in lower quality hospitals where ECT was unavailable. We investigated whether a racial difference in receiving ECT persists, and, if so, whether it arises from lesser ECT availability or from lesser ECT use within hospitals conducting the procedure.
Black or white inpatient stays for recurrent major depression from 1993 to 2007 (N=419,686) were drawn from an annual sample of US community hospital discharges. The marginal disparity ratio estimated adjusted racial differences in the probabilities of (1) admission to a hospital capable of conducting ECT (availability), and (2) ECT utilization if treated where ECT is conducted (use).
Across all hospitals, the probability of receiving ECT for depressed white inpatients (7.0%) greatly exceeded that for blacks (2.0%). Probability of ECT availability was slightly greater for whites than blacks (62.0% versus 57.8%), while probability of use was markedly greater (11.8% versus 3.9%). The white versus black marginal disparity ratio for ECT availability was 1.07 (95% confidence interval 1.06-1.07) and stable over the period, while the ratio for use fell from 3.2 (3.1-3.4) to 2.5 (2.4-2.7).
Depressed persons treated in outpatient settings or receive no care are excluded from analyses.
Depressed black inpatients continue to be far less likely than whites to receive ECT. The difference arises almost entirely from lesser use of ECT within hospitals where it is available.

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