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Bipolar depression is difficult to manage, and causes considerable disability and distress for patients and their surroundings. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective treatment, but there are concerns regarding long-term neurocognitive impairment, and in particular autobiographical memory.
To compare the long-term effects of algorithm-based pharmacologic treatment (APT) and ECT in treatment-resistant bipolar depression as measured with standard neurocognitive tests and autobiographical memory interview.
To examine the long-term neurocognitive effects of ECT.
In this multicenter randomized controlled trial 73 in-patients with treatment resistant bipolar depression were randomized to either APT or unilateral ECT. Patients were assessed at baseline and at 6 months. Neurocognitive functions were assessed with the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB), Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) and the Autobiographical Memory Inventory - Short form (AMI-SF). At 6 months, neurocognitive data were available for 26 patients (APT n = 11, ECT n = 15).
There were no group-differences at baseline.
At 6 months, there was no group-difference in MCCB-score (APT 44.9 vs. ECT 46.0, P-value: 0.707), or WASI total IQ-score (APT 103.9 vs. ECT 107.2, P-value: 0.535). There were indications of (P-value: 0.109) poorer AMI-SF consistency score in the ECT group (APT 72.3% vs. ECT 64.3%).
This study does not find that ECT causes long-term impairment in neurocognitive function as measured with standard neuropsychological tests. We find a trend towards poorer autobiographical memory in the ECT-group, and there needs to be further research regarding this.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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