Life-saving electroconvulsive therapy in a patient with near-lethal catatonia

Riv Psichiatr. 2012 Nov-Dec;47(6):535-7. doi: 10.1708/1178.13060.


A young woman with bipolar I disorder and comorbid catatonia on enteral nutrition from several months, developed a form of near-lethal catatonia with weight loss, pressure sores, muscle atrophy, electrolyte imbalance, and depression of vital signs. A compulsory treatment was necessary, and informed consent was obtained from her mother for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). After 7 ECT sessions, the patient recovered and resumed feeding. ECT may save the life of a patient with catatonia provided that legal obstacles are overcome. Clinicians should carefully evaluate patients with near-lethal catatonia, taking into account the risk of pulmonary embolism and other fatal events. The medical-legal issues, which vary across state regulations, should be addressed in detail to avoid unnecessary and potentially harmful delay in intervention.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Catatonia / diagnosis
  • Catatonia / etiology
  • Catatonia / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parental Consent
  • Treatment Outcome