Introduction: The use of ECT in Denmark has not been systematically evaluated since 1979. Many changes have since taken place in the organisation of psychiatric care and the number of new drugs for the treatment of affective disorders has grown. We wanted to see whether the frequency of treatments and the technical standard of ECT had undergone changes in the same period.
Material and methods: A questionnaire was sent to all psychiatric departments in Denmark concerning the number of ECT sessions and ECT patients in 1999, and technical aspects and organisation of this treatment-modality.
Results: The percentage of replies was 100, all departments used ECT, and 86% of the departments adequately reported the number of ECT sessions and ECT-treated patients. The total number of sessions and patients treated was estimated from these answers. We found that the number of ECT sessions had fallen from 19,564 in 1979 to 16,306 in 1999 and the number of ECT patients from 2,332 in 1979 to 1,710 in 1999. ECT is thus given to an average of 5% of all hospitalised psychiatric patients. The number of sessions per patient had increased slightly. The technical quality of treatment with regard to the ECT devices used had improved considerably during the period.
Discussion: The use of ECT in Denmark shows a decline since the last evaluation in 1979. However, it still plays an important role in the treatment of hospitalised patients with depression in Denmark.