Electroconvulsive therapy increased illness-free intervals and reduced manic and depressive episodes in bipolar patients, reported Dr. Gian Paolo Minnai of the psychiatry unit at San Martino Hospital in Oristano, Italy, and coauthors.

In a retrospective study of 41 patients with bipolar disorder, the investigators analyzed the number of episodes and admissions 5 years before and after ECT treatment. The duration of free intervals before and after ECT was also studied.

The results showed “significantly longer” free intervals after treatment (13.2 ± 9.0 months before ECT to 25.1 ± 19.1 months after treatment [t = 3.8; P less than .0001]), Dr. Minnai and colleagues reported. In addition, the analysis found “significant reductions” in the number of manic and depressive episodes (5.9 ± 3.0 before ECT to 1.0 ± 1.7 after treatment [t = 9.3; P less than .0001]) and admissions (2.2 ± 1.3 before ECT to 0.2 ± 0.5 after treatment [t = 9.4; P less than .0001]).

The study suggests that “it is plausible that ECT, along with suspending antidepressant treatment, might carry intrinsic stabilizing effect on the course of [bipolar disorder],” the authors concluded.

No financial conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Read the full article in the Journal of Affective Disorders ( May 2016;195:180-4 ).



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