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Int J Psychiatry Med. 1994;24(1):1-29.

ECT in the treatment of patients with neurological and somatic disease.

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  • 1Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



An evaluation of the safety and efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), for the treatment of patients with severe medical and neurological illness, was undertaken.


The English-language literature reporting the use of ECT in patients with neurological and somatic disease was reviewed. This review included reports describing ECT used for the treatment of affective disturbances and catatonia in patients with concurrent neurological or somatic disease, as well as reports dealing with the efficacy of ECT for the treatment of certain neurological conditions for which it has been reported to have some benefit independent of its psychiatric effect.


ECT is safe and effective for the treatment of affective and catatonic disorders in patients with most neurological and medical diseases, including elderly and debilitated patients with multiple illnesses, if the specific medical risks are carefully evaluated in each case, and appropriate modifications of technique are used to reduce the risk of potential complications. Apart from its use in psychiatry, ECT has been reported to have therapeutic effects in Parkinson's disease, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, aggressive behavioral disorders following brain injury, certain forms of epilepsy, and some forms of delirium due to toxic or metabolic encephalopathies. The potential for ECT to play an active role in the clinical management of patients with these disorders, many of whom are presently refractory to maximal medical treatment, should be evaluated by systematic studies.

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