The electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) guideline of the Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends a 0.5 mg/kg of succinylcholine for ECT modification. Our clinical experience suggests that this dose is insufficient for Indian patients. The dose recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (0.5 mg/kg) and a larger dose (1 mg/kg) were compared in 50 patients referred for ECT. In one ECT session, patients were equally randomized to receive one of the two doses and in the next session they were switched to the other dose. The extent of motor seizure modification was rated on a five-point scale by two independent raters who were blinded to the succinylcholine dose. The interrater reliability was good (K = 0.85). "Poor" seizure modification occurred in 48% and 12% of patients with the 0.5 and 1 mg/kg doses, respectively. Of the 24 patients who had poor modification with 0.5 mg/kg, 20 had "good" modification in the session with 1 mg/kg (P < 0.001). A small delay (mean = 55 s) occurred in time to recover from the respiratory paralysis with the 1 mg/kg dose of succinylcholine. No patient, however, had prolonged apnea requiring special measures. We recommend 1 mg/kg of succinylcholine dose be used in the first ECT session. For subsequent sessions, the dose may be altered, depending on the response for optimal motor seizure modification.
Implications: The dose of muscle relaxant (succinylcholine) recommended in modified electroconvulsive therapy is not based on empirical research. In the same patients (n = 50), two doses-0.5 mg/kg and 1 mg/kg-were compared during different electroconvulsive therapy sessions. The larger dose was more effective in modifying the peripheral convulsion.