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Comparison of anesthetics in electroconvulsive therapy: an effective treatment with the use of propofol, etomidate, and thiopental

Authors Zahavi G, Dannon P

Received 26 November 2013

Accepted for publication 3 January 2014

Published 20 February 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 383—389


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Guy Sender Zahavi,1 Pinhas Dannon1,2

1Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel; 2Brain Stimulation Unit at Beer Yaakov-Ness Ziona Mental Health Center, Israel

Objectives: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered to be one of the most effective treatments in psychiatry. Currently, three medications for anesthesia are used routinely during ECT: propofol, etomidate, and thiopental. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of the anesthetics used in ECT on seizure threshold and duration, hemodynamics, recovery from ECT, and immediate side effects.
Methods: Our study is a retrospective cohort study, in which a comparison was made between three groups of patients who underwent ECT and were anesthetized with propofol, etomidate, or thiopental. The main effect compared was treatment dose and seizure duration. All patients were chosen as responders to ECT.
Results: Data were gathered about 91 patients (39 were anesthetized with thiopental, 29 with etomidate, and 23 with propofol). Patients in the thiopental group received a lower electrical dose compared to the propofol and etomidate group (mean of 459 mC compared to 807 mC and 701 mC, respectively, P<0.001). Motor seizure duration was longer in the thiopental group compared to propofol and etomidate (mean of 40 seconds compared to 21 seconds and 23 seconds, respectively, P=0.018). Seizure duration recorded by electroencephalography was similar in the thiopental and etomidate groups and lower in the propofol group (mean of 57 seconds in both groups compared to 45 seconds, respectively, P=0.038).
Conclusion: Patients who were anesthetized with thiopental received a lower electrical treatment dose without an unwanted decrease in seizure duration. Thiopental might be the anesthetic of choice when it is congruent with other medical considerations.

Keywords: anesthesia, ECT, seizure

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