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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most effective acute treatment for
severe depression, but widely held concerns about memory problems may
limit its use.
To find out whether repeated or maintenance courses of ECT cause
cumulative cognitive deterioration.
Analysis of the results of 10 years of cognitive performance data
collection from patients who have received ECT. The 199 patients had a
total of 498 assessments, undertaken after a mean of 15.3 ECT sessions
(range 0–186). A linear mixed-effect regression model was used, testing
whether an increasing number of ECT sessions leads to deterioration in
The total number of previous ECT sessions had no effect on cognitive
performance. The major factors affecting performance were age, followed
by the severity of depression at the time of testing and the number of
days since the last ECT session.
Repeated courses of ECT do not lead to cumulative cognitive deficits.
This message is reassuring for patients, carers and prescribers who are
concerned about memory problems and confusion during ECT.
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