Date: 13 Mar 2011

Clinically favourable effects of ketamine as an anaesthetic for electroconvulsive therapy: a retrospective study

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Abstract

In a retrospective chart review, we examined the effects of ketamine, an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) anaesthetic in patients suffering from therapy-resistant depression. We included 42 patients who received ECT treatment with either ketamine (n = 16) or the barbiturate thiopental (n = 26). We analysed the number of sessions until completion of ECT treatment (used as a surrogate parameter for outcome), psychopathology as assessed by pre- and post-ECT Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) scores as well as ECT and seizure parameters (stimulation dose, seizure duration and concordance, urapidil dosage for post-seizure blood pressure management). The ketamine group needed significantly fewer ECT sessions and had significantly lower HAM-D and higher MMSE scores afterwards. As expected, the ketamine group needed more urapidil for blood pressure control. Taking into account the limits inherent in a retrospective study design and the rather small sample size, our results nonetheless point towards synergistic effects of ECT and ketamine anaesthesia, less cognitive side effects and good tolerability of ketamine.