ECT for prolonged catatonia

C Malur, E Pasol, A Francis
Journal of ECT 2001, 17 (1): 55-9

OBJECTIVE AND BACKGROUND: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is highly effective for acute catatonia but its use in prolonged catatonia is not well established. We report three cases of prolonged catatonia with medical complications or comorbidities treated by ECT.

METHOD: Case reports.

RESULTS: A 24 year-old woman developed fever and autonomic instability after parenteral neuroleptics. Catatonia and autonomic signs persisted for 14 weeks. After minimal improvement from lorazepam, 15 bilateral ECTs led to resolution. A 26-year-old woman with a history of lupus erythematosus, complicated by lupus cerebritis with lesions in the cortex and basal ganglia and a communicating hydrocephalus, was catatonic for 9 weeks. Lorazepam produced marginal improvement. A series of 14 bilateral ECTs led to improved mobility, speech, and interaction, but the response was less robust than Case 1. A 40-year-old man with mental retardation and intermittent psychosis developed severe neuroleptic malignant syndrome and remained catatonic for 4 months. After lorazepam produced minimal improvement, his catatonia resolved with 20 bilateral ECTs.

CONCLUSIONS: ECT may improve prolonged catatonia with complex medical comorbidities, but may require many treatment sessions. Gross cerebral pathology may predict a less robust response. As for acute catatonia, ECT may resolve prolonged catatonia after benzodiazepines have failed.

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