1 Guidance

The recommendations in this technology appraisal relating to the treatment of depression have been replaced by those in the NICE guideline on depression in adults published in October 2009. Note that the recommendations in this technology appraisal relating to the treatment of catatonia-prolonged or severe manic episodes and schizophrenia have not changed. The recommendations relating to depression have been removed from this version.

1.1 It is recommended that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used only to achieve rapid and short-term improvement of severe symptoms after an adequate trial of other treatment options has proven ineffective and/or when the condition is considered to be potentially life-threatening, in individuals with:

  • catatonia

  • a prolonged or severe manic episode.

1.2 The decision as to whether ECT is clinically indicated should be based on a documented assessment of the risks and potential benefits to the individual, including: the risks associated with the anaesthetic; current comorbidities; anticipated adverse events, particularly cognitive impairment; and the risks of not having treatment.

1.3 The risks associated with ECT may be enhanced during pregnancy, in older people, and in children and young people, and therefore clinicians should exercise particular caution when considering ECT treatment in these groups.

1.4 Valid consent should be obtained in all cases where the individual has the ability to grant or refuse consent. The decision to use ECT should be made jointly by the individual and the clinician(s) responsible for treatment, on the basis of an informed discussion. This discussion should be enabled by the provision of full and appropriate information about the general risks associated with ECT (see section 1.9) and about the risks and potential benefits specific to that individual. Consent should be obtained without pressure or coercion, which may occur as a result of the circumstances and clinical setting, and the individual should be reminded of their right to withdraw consent at any point. There should be strict adherence to recognised guidelines about consent and the involvement of patient advocates and/or carers to facilitate informed discussion is strongly encouraged.

1.5 In all situations where informed discussion and consent is not possible advance directives should be taken fully into account and the individual's advocate and/or carer should be consulted.

1.6 Clinical status should be assessed following each ECT session and treatment should be stopped when a response has been achieved, or sooner if there is evidence of adverse effects. Cognitive function should be monitored on an ongoing basis, and at a minimum at the end of each course of treatment.

1.7 It is recommended that a repeat course of ECT should be considered under the circumstances indicated in section 1.1 only for individuals who have catatonia or mania and who have previously responded well to ECT. In patients who are experiencing an acute episode but have not previously responded, a repeat trial of ECT should be undertaken only after all other options have been considered and following discussion of the risks and benefits with the individual and/or where appropriate their carer/advocate.

1.8 This recommendation has been updated and replaced by the NICE guideline on depression in adults.

1.9 The current state of the evidence does not allow the general use of ECT in the management of schizophrenia to be recommended.

1.10 National information leaflets should be developed through consultation with appropriate professional and user organisations to enable individuals and their carers/advocates to make an informed decision regarding the appropriateness of ECT for their circumstances. The leaflets should be evidence based, include information about the risks of ECT and availability of alternative treatments, and be produced in formats and languages that make them accessible to a wide range of service users.