Objectives: To compare propofol and thiopental as anesthetic agents for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) with respect to seizure duration, stimulus charge, clinical effect, and cognitive side effects.
Methods: Randomized, blinded study of 62 depressed patients treated with bilateral ECT. Algorithm-based charge dosing was used.
Results: The mean seizure duration of the patients in the thiopental group was 36.3 seconds versus 25.7 seconds in the propofol group (P = 0.001). The charge per treatment was 79.5 mC in the thiopental group versus 109.8 mC in the propofol group (P = 0.026). Sixteen patients in the propofol group (52%) reached the highest electrical dose versus 8 patients (26%) in the thiopental group (P = 0.014). No difference in response to treatment or number of treatments was observed. The mean score on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was 28.9 in the thiopental group versus 26.8 in the propofol group (P = 0.014). However, age distribution of patients completing the study differed between the groups.
Conclusions: Propofol significantly decreases seizure duration without significant difference in the clinical outcome. Using the employed treatment algorithm, patients anesthetised with propofol received higher electrical charge. Mini-Mental State Examination scores suggest that this results in more severe cognitive side effects. Results, however, might be confounded by the differences in age distribution in the groups.