Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in schizophrenia: a review of recent literature

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Abstract

Purpose of review

ECT remains an important, yet underutilized, treatment for schizophrenia. Recent research shows that medication-resistant patients with schizophrenia, including those resistant to clozapine, respond well to ECT augmentation. The purpose of this article is to review recent studies of the use of ECT in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Recent findings

We performed an electronic database search for articles on ECT and schizophrenia, published in 2017. The main themes of these articles are: epidemiological data on ECT use from various countries; retrospective studies, prospective studies and meta-analyses focusing on efficacy and cognitive side-effects of ECT in schizophrenia; ECT technical parameters and potential biomarkers.

Summary

There is growing evidence to support the use of ECT for augmentation of antipsychotic response in the treatment of schizophrenia. Cognitive side-effects are generally mild and transient. In fact, many studies show improvement in cognition, possibly related to the improvement in symptoms. There is wide variation among countries in the use of ECT for the treatment of schizophrenia. There are also variations in the choice of ECT electrode placement, parameters and schedules. These technical differences are likely minor and should not interfere with the treatment being offered to patients. Further, long-term studies are needed to optimize ECT treatment parameters, to examine the effect of maintenance ECT and to investigate neuroimaging/biomarkers to understand the mechanism of action and identify potential response predictors to ECT.

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