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The Role of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in Bipolar Disorder: Effectiveness in 522 Patients with Bipolar Depression, Mixed-state, Mania and Catatonic Features

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Objective: We evaluated the effectiveness of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder (BD) in a large sample of bipolar patients with drug resistant depression, mania, mixed state and catatonic features.

Method: 522 consecutive patients with DSM-IV-TR BD were evaluated prior to and after the ECT course. Responders and nonresponders were compared in subsamples of depressed and mixed patients. Descriptive analyses were reported for patients with mania and with catatonic features.

Results: Of the original sample only 22 patients were excluded for the occurrence of side effects or consent withdrawal. After the ECT course, 344 (68.8%) patients were considered responders (final CGIi score ≤2) and 156 (31.2%) nonresponders. Response rates were respectively 68.1% for BD depression, 72.9% for mixed state, 75% for mania and 80.8% for catatonic features. Length of current episode and global severity of the illness were the only statistically significant predictors of nonresponse.

Conclusion: ECT resulted to be an effective and safe treatment for all the phases of severe and drugresistant BD. Positive response was observed in approximately two-thirds of the cases and in 80% of the catatonic patients. The duration of the current episode was the major predictor of nonresponse. The risk of ECT-induced mania is virtually absent and mood destabilization very unlikely. Our results clearly indicate that current algorithms for the treatment of depressive, mixed, manic and catatonic states should be modified and, at least for the most severe patients, ECT should not be considered as a “last resort”.
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Keywords: Bipolar Disorder; Bipolar depression; Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT); Mania; Mixed State; Mood stabilizer; catatonia

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2017

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  • Current Neuropharmacology aims to provide current, timely and comprehensive reviews of all areas of neuropharmacology and related matters of neuroscience. The journal publishes reviews written by experts and leaders in the fields of molecular, cellular, and systems/behavioural aspects of neuropharmacology and neuroscience. The journal serves as a comprehensive, multidisciplinary expert forum for neuropharmacologists and neuroscientists.
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