Background: Severe depression can be a life-threatening disorder, especially in elderly patients. A fast-acting treatment is crucial for this group. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may work faster than medication.
Aims: To compare the speed of remission using ECT v. medication in elderly in-patients.
Method: The speed of remission in in-patients with a DSM-IV diagnosis of major depression (baseline MADRS score ≥20) was compared between 47 participants (mean age 74.0 years, s.d. = 7.4) from an ECT randomised controlled trial (RCT) and 81 participants (mean age 72.2 years, s.d. = 7.6) from a medication RCT (nortriptyline v. venlafaxine).
Results: Mean time to remission was 3.1 weeks (s.d. = 1.1) for the ECT group and 4.0 weeks (s.d. = 1.0) for the medication group; the adjusted hazard ratio for remission within 5 weeks (ECT v. medication) was 3.4 (95% CI 1.9-6.2).
Conclusions: Considering the substantially higher speed of remission, ECT deserves a more prominent position in the treatment of elderly patients with severe depression.
Royal College of Psychiatrists.