Individualized continuation electroconvulsive therapy and medication as a bridge to relapse prevention after an index course of electroconvulsive therapy in severe mood disorders: a naturalistic 3-year cohort study

J ECT. 2008 Sep;24(3):183-90. doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e318177275d.


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is recognized as an effective acute treatment for mood disorders but is associated with high risk of relapse. To minimize this risk, we introduced as a routine individually tapered continuation ECT with concomitant medication (C-ECT + Med) after an index series in January 2000. In August 2002, a chart review of all patients (n = 41) who had received C-ECT + Med for more than 4 months was carried out. Sixteen patients also participated in an extensive interview. Mean duration of administered C-ECT at follow-up was 1 year, but for most patients (63%), C-ECT had been terminated. For 49% of patients, adjustments between ECT sessions had been made due to early signs of relapse. Two weeks was the most common interval between sessions for patients with ongoing C-ECT. The frequency of lithium-treated patients had increased from 12% before index to 41% during C-ECT. However, the rated response to the drug varied. Need for hospital care 3 years before and after the initiation of C-ECT + Med was compared in a second evaluation of the cohort. The number of patients hospitalized, number of admissions, and total days in hospital were all significantly reduced. Hospital days were reduced by 76% (P < 0.001). Three patients with previously cumulative years in hospital are described as case vignettes after 6 years with no or minimal need for further hospitalization. This study supports previous findings that individually tapered C-ECT + Med can maintain initial response to ECT and serve as a bridge to long-term relapse prevention.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Psychotic Disorders / therapy
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Psychotropic Drugs