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

hiatric Association has not recommended routinely combining antidepressants with ECT.

The research was studied at several sites including Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Columbia University in New York, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Pittsburgh. It was coordinated by researchers at Columbia.

After consenting to the treatment, 319 patients received either a placebo or one of two antidepressants: nortriptyline, an older, generic drug, or venlafaxine, a newer drug that is sold under the brand name EffexorTM. The patients also received at least one form of ECT either bilateral, stimulating both sides of the brain, or unilateral, affecting only the right side to keep the stimulus away from the verbal learning centers in the left side of the brain. Unilateral ECT is generally believed to cause less memory loss than bilateral ECT, but some investigators believed that unilateral ECT did not treat the depression symptoms as well.

Following treatment, patients were evaluated using a series of tests for changes in their depression symptoms and for memory loss.

The researchers found that using either antidepressant during ECT improved depression more than ECT alone. Moreover, patients who received nortriptyline during ECT had fewer memory problems compared with the venlafaxine group. Researchers also found that using a high dose of unilateral ECT on the right side of the brain was as effective as or superior to treating depression with moderate-dose bilateral ECT and still spared memory loss.

"We've been doing research for the last 10 years to find a way to make unilateral stimulation work as well as bilateral," McCall said. "We finally did that in this study."

The next step in this line of research, McCall said, is to evaluate the long-term effects of the treatment.


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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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