Background and objective To assess retrospectively the complications and morbidity of electroconvulsive therapy.
Methods Complications occurring in 75 patients during 612 electroconvulsive therapy procedures under propofol anaesthesia were reviewed by data analysis.
Results At least one complication occurred in 51 patients (68%) during the course of their treatment. Among these complications, 12 were potentially life-threatening: one patient developed angina pectoris, another aspiration pneumopathy, there were two incidences of bronchospasm, three hypoxic episodes (SpO2 < 92% with FiO2 = 1) and five severe episodes of laryngospasm which caused hypoxia. Twenty-five patients (33%) were confused for more than 2 h after the electroconvulsive therapy. Confusion recurred in 10 patients (13%) after several sessions of electroconvulsive treatment. Six patients had a traumatic complication, with one requiring surgery.
Conclusion Our results, compared with other studies, suggest that electroconvulsive therapy is not a low-risk procedure, with a particularly high rate of respiratory complications that may have been previously overlooked. Therefore, ambulatory anaesthesia may not be appropriate on a regular basis for most of these patients.