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J Affect Disord. 2009 Nov;118(1-3):55-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.01.014. Epub 2009 Feb 14.

Response to ECT in bipolar I, bipolar II and unipolar depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, Neurobiology, Pharmacology, and Biotecnology University of Pisa, Italy.



A significant body of evidence indicates the efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in unipolar depression but mixed results have been reported in bipolar depression. We explored difference of response to ECT in unipolar (UP), bipolar I (BP I) and bipolar II (BP II) depression, in a sample of patients resistant to pharmacological treatment.


One hundred and thirty depressive patients (17 with Major Depression (UP), 67 with bipolar disorder II (BP II) and 46 with bipolar disorder I (BP I) according to DSM-IV criteria) were included in the study and treated with bilateral ECT, on a twice-a-week schedule. The patients were assessed before (baseline) and a week after the ECT course (final score), using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS), Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) and the Clinical Global Improvement (CGI).


The three groups (UP, BP II, BP I) showed a significant improvement after the ECT course. Global response rate (CGI<2) was 94.1% for UP, 79.1% for BP II and 67.4% for BP I. Concerning depressive symptomatology, the remission rate (HAM-D <8) was respectively 70.5 for UP, 56.7% for BP II and 65.3% for BP I. The best results were achieved by UP patients, while BP I group showed the worst results with a lower remission rate and higher scores in YMRS and BPRS psychotic cluster at the final evaluation.


ECT turns out to be a viable option for the treatment of both unipolar and bipolar depressive patients resistant to pharmacological treatment. Nevertheless, while the UP group showed the best response and clinical outcomes, the BP I patients tended to exhibit residual manic and psychotic symptomatology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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