December 7, 2006
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ECT Therapy Shown to Be Effective in Preventing Relapse of Depression
UMDNJ Clinician Publishes Study in Premier Psychiatry Journal
NEWARK— The results of a UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School-led clinical study into the efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for preventing relapse of depression appears in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, the discipline's premier journal.
Charles Kellner, MD, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, serves as the principle investigator of the five-center study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
ECT can be used in two ways. To treat an episode of depression, patients receive ECT treatments three times a week for 2 to 4 weeks. To prevent relapse, patients receive what is called continuation/maintenance ECT, which is less frequent and serves as a way to taper the treatments to continue the therapeutic effects.
Results indicate that continuation/maintenance ECT - in this case the use of ECT once a month - is an efficacious therapy for patients prone to depression relapse.
"Although ECT has been shown to be extremely effective for the acute treatment of major depression, this is the first study to systematically assess continuation/maintenance ECT as a strategy for relapse prevention," said Dr. Kellner.
Two groups were studied: one group received 10 ECT treatments over six months while another group received a drug combination for six months.
Results indicated that both methods were effective to about the same degree: In the ECT group, 37.1 percent experienced relapse with 46.1 percent remaining in remission. Among the group receiving medications, 31.6 percent experienced relapse with 46.3 percent remaining in remission. The remainder of the participants dropped out.
Because of the significant relapse rate, a follow-up study aims to compare the efficacy of continuation/maintenance ECT treatments combined with drugs versus drugs alone. " Patients dealing with long-term clinical depression urgently need even more effective strategies for relapse prevention," noted Dr. Kellner.
Participating centers for this study, all part of the Consortium for Research in ECT (CORE) include: UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Medical University of South Carolina, the Zucker-Hillside Northshore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Mayo Foundation.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.