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J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;72(1):91-7. doi: 10.4088/JCP.10m05973gry. Epub 2010 Nov 30.

Efficacy and cognitive side effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in depressed elderly inpatients with coexisting mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

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Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, Central Institute of Mental Health, Sq J5, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany.



To study cognitive performance in depressed geriatric inpatients with or without preexisting cognitive impairment who received a first course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).


Forty-four elderly inpatients with major depressive disorder (ICD-10 criteria) were included in a prospective consecutive case series of a university hospital. The patients were divided into 3 groups (no cognitive impairment [NCI], mild cognitive impairment [MCI], dementia) and rated for cognitive performance with the MMSE before first ECT, after sixth ECT, and 6 weeks and 6 months after ECT termination. Affective symptoms were rated by 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-21) before and 6 weeks after ECT. Analysis of variance or Kruskal-Wallis tests on ECT-induced MMSE and HDRS-21 score changes were compared to baseline. Binary logistic regression was used for predictor analysis. The study was conducted from April 2004 to April 2008.


After initial nonsignificant cognitive deterioration in all 3 groups, the NCI group improved cognitively 6 weeks (P = .018) and 6 months (P = .027) after ECT. The MCI group improved in cognition 6 months (P = .036) after ECT. In the dementia group, mean MMSE scores also improved numerically over the course of ECT without significance. Dementia patients with antidementia treatment improved in cognition to a clinically relevant extent after the sixth ECT. Dementia subjects without antidementia treatment deteriorated. After the sixth ECT, 70.0% of dementia patients (P = .004) presented a cognitive decline, and 68.8% of MCI patients (P < .001) presented a decline 6 weeks after ECT. Six months after ECT, one-third of the dementia patients (P < .036) still had a cognitive decline. Affective symptoms remitted after ECT in all 3 groups (P < .001). Pre-ECT cognitive deficits were the best predictor of MMSE decline (6 weeks after ECT, P = .007; 6 months after ECT, P = .055).


ECT is effective and well tolerated in geriatric depressed inpatients regardless of preexisting cognitive impairment. Cognitive deficits were transient.

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