Cognitive Impairment Following Electroconvulsive Therapy-Does the Choice of Anesthetic Agent Make a Difference?

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The range of drugs available to provide anesthesia for patients undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is ever increasing. Initially, anesthetic agents were selected on the basis of their capacity not to antagonize the induced seizure. This was not always a simple task because almost all general anesthetic agents have "in built" antiepileptic activity. Nonbarbiturate agents such as propofol have been successfully used as alternatives to thiopental and methohexitone, but this drug too has antiepileptic properties. Most recently, opioid-like drugs such as remifentanil have been used, and there has been renewed interest in ketamine, a phencyclidine derivative. Attention has also focused on whether the anesthetic agent selected may affect the cognitive impairment seen after ECT. Studies in this area are limited, but early results suggest that agents such as ketamine may have particular benefit. This article reviews the current literature dealing with anesthesia and postoperative cognitive impairment in general and with regard to ECT in particular.

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