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Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2012 Mar;3(2):69-85. doi: 10.1177/2040622311432493.

A review of ultrabrief pulse width electroconvulsive therapy.

Abstract

The effect of shortening the pulse width of the electrical stimulus when administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has recently been systematically studied with promising results. This review examines reported outcomes from three randomized controlled trials which compared ultrabrief (≤0.3 ms) with brief (0.5-1.5 ms) pulse width ECT, and other recent clinical trials of ultrabrief pulse width ECT. The emerging evidence for ultrabrief pulse right unilateral (RUL) ECT suggests clinically meaningful efficacy and substantially reduced neuropsychological side effects compared with standard (brief) pulse ECT; this may represent a generational advance in the ECT technique. However, it is unclear if patients receiving ultrabrief pulse RUL ECT may have a slower speed of response and require additional treatments compared with brief pulse ECT. Therefore, until further data are available, clinicians may be well advised to use brief pulse ECT in situations requiring an urgent clinical response. The evidence base for ultrabrief bilateral ECT is limited, with findings that efficacy may be reduced compared with brief pulse width ECT. Thus ultrabrief bilateral ECT should not be used outside the research setting.

KEYWORDS:

efficacy; electroconvulsive therapy; neuropsychological; pulse width; review; ultrabrief

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