Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a highly effective treatment for depression but its use is limited by the risk of cognitive side effects. This study explored the potential of a novel approach, ultrabrief pulsewidth (0.3 ms) right unilateral (RUL-UB) ECT, to minimise cognitive effects while preserving efficacy.
Mood and neuropsychological functioning were objectively rated in 30 patients over a course of RUL-UB ECT at 6 times seizure threshold. Results (mood outcomes, ECT treatment parameters) were compared with a retrospectively assessed group of 30 age and gender matched patients who received RUL ECT (1.0 ms pulsewidth, 3.5 times seizure threshold) at the same hospital.
Six treatments of RUL-UB ECT resulted in relatively few cognitive side effects, compared to reports of previous studies. The number of responders did not differ between groups but significantly more treatments were required in the RUL-UB group, suggesting a slower speed of response.
Patients were not randomised to the two forms of ECT and data was obtained retrospectively in the RUL ECT comparison group.
This study suggests that RUL-UB ECT can be effective in treating depression while incurring lesser cognitive side effects than a commonly used form of RUL ECT, but a greater number of treatments may be required for response.