Acute Electroconvulsive Therapy Followed by Maintenance Electroconvulsive Therapy Decreases Hospital Re-Admission Rates of Older Patients With Severe Mental Illness

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a highly effective treatment for patients with severe mental illness (SMI). Maintenance ECT (M-ECT) is required for many elderly patients experiencing severe recurrent forms of mood disorders, whereas M-ECT for schizophrenia patients is a poorly studied treatment. We report on the outcomes in aged patients with SMI: schizophrenia and severe affective disorders treated by M-ECT of varying duration to prevent relapse after a successful course of acute ECT. The study measured the effectiveness of M-ECT in preventing hospital readmissions and reducing admission days.


A retrospective chart review of 42 consecutive patients comparing the number and length of psychiatric admissions before and after the start of M-ECT was used. We analyzed diagnoses, previous ECT treatments, number of ECT treatments, and number and length of psychiatric admissions before and after M-ECT.


Mean age in our sample was 71.5 (6.9) years. Twenty-two (52%) patients experienced severe affective disorders and 20 (48%) experienced schizophrenia. Patients were administered 92.8 (85.9) M-ECT treatments. Average duration of the M-ECT course was 34 (29.8) months. There were on average 1.88 admissions before M-ECT and only 0.38 admissions in the M-ECT period (P < 0.001). Duration of mean hospitalization stay decreased from 215.9 to 12.4 days during the M-ECT (P < 0.01).


Our findings suggest that acute ECT followed by M-ECT is highly effective in selected elderly patients with SMIs.

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