Safety of electroconvulsive therapy in patients with asthma

P S Mueller, K M Schak, R D Barnes, K G Rasmussen
Netherlands Journal of Medicine 2006, 64 (11): 417-21

BACKGROUND: Patients with depression and other psychiatric disorders being considered for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may also have asthma. Since ECT requires the administration of general anaesthesia, it is assumed that extra care should be taken with asthmatic patients before and during ECT. We sought to investigate the safety of ECT in asthmatic patients.

METHODS: A retrospective review was conducted of the medical records of all of the patients with currently active and managed asthma who underwent ECT for severe depressive syndromes at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, between 1 January 1998, and 30 June 2006.

RESULTS: Thirty-four patients with asthma who also underwent ECT were identified. Of these, 27 (79%) were women. The median age was 45 years (range 23-84 years). All 34 patients were using asthma medications daily at the time of ECT. The 34 patients underwent a total of 459 ECT sessions. Four (12%) patients experienced exacerbation of their asthma on a total of five occasions. Each exacerbation was successfully treated with standard asthma medications, and all four patients completed their courses of ECT.

CONCLUSION: ECT in patients with asthma appears to be safe. Although exacerbation of asthma after ECT was rare in our series, a prospective study would be needed to determine the precise risk of pulmonary complications of ECT in asthmatic patients.

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