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Antidepressants aid electroconvulsive therapy in treating severe depression
Date:7/6/2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Combining antidepressant drugs with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) does a better job of reducing symptoms of severe depression and causes less memory loss than using ECT alone, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.

This finding could alleviate one of the primary concerns about ECT that it causes memory loss, said W. Vaughn McCall, M.D., M.S, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the principal investigator for the study's Wake Forest Baptist site.

The full study appears in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, published today.

ECT uses an electrical stimulus to the brain to induce seizures. It is prescribed for patients with crisis-level severe depression who are catatonic (people who are so slowed down that they stop moving, talking and eating) or suicidal or for patients with major depression who have not responded to medication. Electrodes attached to the head deliver the stimulus and patients are anesthetized and receive muscle relaxants during the procedure.

Patients receiving ECT often experience some memory loss that usually improves within days of treatment.

Researchers wanted to find a way to increase the effectiveness of ECT while reducing the side effects of memory loss.

"Although ECT remains a powerful treatment, there is still a significant proportion of patients that do not respond recent statistics show a 70 to 80 percent response rate," McCall said. "Even in patients who do respond, there still is a significant risk of relapse. Patients may become ill again with depression within a matter of weeks to a few months after ECT."

The study is the first of its size to evaluate the use of antidepressants with ECT. Because of a lack of prior information on the topic of combining antidepressant medications with ECT, the American Psyc
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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