Changes in Electroconvulsive Therapy Practice in the Last 12 Years in Hungary

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Abstract

Background

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was rarely used in Hungary in 2002, and the majority of patients receiving ECT were diagnosed with schizophrenia. This study aimed to explore the use of ECT in Hungary in 2014.

Methods

Two semi-structured questionnaires were sent to all acute adult psychiatric units in Hungary. The first questionnaire contained items concerning ECT use, and the second explored the reasons for not using ECT.

Results

Fifty-eight acute psychiatric inpatient units were identified, and 54 replied. Although 27 indicated that they used ECT, only 22 actually performed ECT in 2014. Thirty-one units did not offer ECT at all. In 2014, 174 patients received ECT in Hungary, constituting 0.59% of all inpatients treated in the departments where it was offered, equating to 0.176 patients/10,000 population. The indication for ECT shifted from schizophrenia in 2002 (55.6%) to mood disorders in 2014 (58.5%), but the absolute number of ECT-treated patients with mood disorders (110 vs 102) did not change. Reasons for not using ECT included the lack of an ECT machine, unavailability of an anesthesiologist, lack of finances, and lack of experienced staff.

Conclusions

In view of the high frequency of depression and suicide in Hungary, it is very likely that a significant minority of patients who would benefit from ECT cannot access it, which constitutes a violation of their right to the best possible treatment. The main reasons for the inadequate ECT service are the underfinanced hospital system and a lack of necessary knowledge.

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