A Meta-review of the Safety of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Pregnancy

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Abstract

Background

Four systematic reviews have examined the safety of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in pregnancy. These have varied widely in methods, findings, and conclusions.

Methods

We compared these reviews with regard to search strategy, study selection criteria, total number of studies identified, total number of patients included, findings related to safety and adverse events, and interpretation of results.

Results

The number of studies (number of cases) included in the reviews ranged from 16 (n = 300) to 67 (n = 169) with only one review stating reasons for exclusion of nonselected studies. We provide comparisons about how the reviews described patient characteristics, illness characteristics, ECT characteristics, confounder characteristics, and outcome characteristics; there was wide variation in these regards. We list adverse outcomes that were identified by some but not other reviews. We provide a detailed breakdown of the adverse maternal and fetal outcomes identified in each review. Finally, we examine how different reviews interpreted their findings; whereas some reviews provided reasons for ruling out ECT as an explanation for an adverse outcome, one review adopted the stance that all adverse outcomes were potentially ECT-related.

Conclusions

Our meta-review provides readers with comparative information on the strengths and limitations of the 4 systematic reviews, their findings, and their conclusions. It can assist with clinical decision making on the use of ECT in pregnancy by providing a more complete description of the available literature.

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