Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Adolescents

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Summary:Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used in adolescent psychiatric practice, yet few studies have been conducted to assess its use for 13-19-year-olds. Efficacy, indications, side effects, technical characteristics, and outcome are uncertain. We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 21 adolescents treated with bilateral ECT in our department from 1984 through 1995. In our series, ECT was effective in treating both manic and depressive episodes, with a high rate of relapse at 1 year follow-up (˜40%). Clinical improvement was only partial in schizophrenia and schizoaffective episodes. Seizure threshold was associated with gender, but not with the cumulative number of treatments. Adverse effects were frequent, but were usually transient with only moderate discomfort, even in patients with concomitant medical problems. We conclude that ECT is a safe and effective treatment for adolescents with severe and intractable mental illness, and it has the same indications and effects as in adults.

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