Combining antidepressant drugs with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) does a better job of reducing symptoms of severe depression and causes less memory loss than using ECT alone, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.
This finding could alleviate one of the primary concerns about ECT – that it causes memory loss, said W. Vaughn McCall, M.D., M.S, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the principal investigator for the study's Wake Forest Baptist site.
The full study appears in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, published today.
ECT uses an electrical stimulus to the brain to induce seizures. It is prescribed for patients with crisis-level severe depression – who are catatonic (people who are so slowed down that they stop moving, talking and eating) or suicidal – or for patients with major depression who have not responded to medication. Electrodes attached to the head deliver the stimulus and patients are anesthetized and receive muscle relaxants during the procedure.
Patients receiving ECT often experience some memory loss that usually improves within days of treatment.
Researchers wanted to find a way to increase the effectiveness of ECT while reducing the side effects of memory loss.
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