, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 474-480
Date: 08 Jan 2009

Uncommon but serious complications associated with electroconvulsive therapy: Recognition and management for the clinician

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe and effective treatment for severe mood disorders. Rarely there can be serious complications, such as postictal agitation, cardiovascular compromise, prolonged seizures, and status epilepticus, all of which are important for the clinician to recognize and treat. Postictal agitation can be severe, requiring emergent intervention and subsequent prophylactic measures to avoid premature ECT discontinuation. Cardiovascular responses to ECT include significant hemodynamic changes that may result in complications, even in patients without preexisting cardiovascular conditions. However, preexisting cardiovascular conditions per se are not contraindications to ECT in patients with disabling psychiatric disease. Recognizing and treating prolonged seizures is essential to prevent progression to status epilepticus. Failure to recognize and treat any of these events may result in increased mortality and morbidity. Understanding such complications and their management strategies avoids unnecessary treatment discontinuation due to manageable ECT complications.