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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • electroconvulsive therapy;
  • suprathreshold;
  • threshold

Objectives:  To examine differences in speed of improvement and remission in people with mania undergoing bilateral, brief-pulse, twice-weekly electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at stimulus intensities administered just above and 2.5 times their individually titrated seizure threshold.

Methods:  Consecutive, eligible subjects with mania, prescribed ECT, were randomised to receive treatments at stimulus doses either just above or 2.5 times their individually titrated seizure thresholds. Main outcomes were the speed of improvement and remission as measured by the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and the Clinical Global Impressions—Improvement scale (CGI-I) and cognitive side effects assessed by the Mini-Mental State Exam, the Wechsler Memory Scale, and a scale for autobiographical memory.

Results:  A total of 24/26 subjects (92.3%) given threshold ECT and 22/24 subjects (91.7%) given suprathreshold ECT were significantly improved [CGI = 2; odds ratio (OR) = 1.1, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.1–8.4; p = 1.0] at the end of ECT. A total of 88% of the sample had remitted [YMRS < 10; threshold 23/26 (88.5%) versus suprathreshold 21/24 (87.5%)], with no significant differences between interventions (OR = 1.1, 95% CI: 0.2– 6.0; p = 1.0). The interventions did not differ significantly in the time or number of ECT treatments required for improvement or remission. Both interventions were equally safe.

Conclusions:  Bilateral, twice-weekly ECT delivered at stimulus intensities just above individually titrated seizure threshold was as effective and safe as ECT administered at stimulus intensities 2.5 times seizure threshold in rapidly resolving the symptoms of acute mania.