Get access

Electroconvulsive therapy is equally effective in unipolar and bipolar depression


  • Trial Registration: clinical Identifier: NCT00069407.

Samuel Bailine, Department of Psychiatry, ECT Service, LIJ-Hillside Hospital, 75-59 263rd Street, Glen Oaks, NY 11004, USA.


Bailine S, Fink M, Knapp R, Petrides G, Husain MM, Rasmussen K, Sampson S, Mueller M, McClintock SM, Tobias KG, Kellner CH. Electroconvulsive therapy is equally effective in unipolar and bipolar depression.

Objective:  To determine the relative efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the treatment of bipolar (BP) and unipolar (UP) depressive illness and clarify its role in BP depression.

Method:  Patients referred for ECT with both UP and BP depressions. [classified by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID-I) criteria for history of mania] were included in a multi-site collaborative, double-masked, randomized controlled trial of three electrode placements – right unilateral, bifrontal or bitemporal – in a permutated block randomization scheme.

Results:  Of 220 patients, 170 patients (77.3%) were classified as UP and 50 (22.7%) as BP depression in the intent-to-treat sample. The remission and response rates and numbers of ECT for both groups were equivalent.

Conclusion:  Both UP and BP depressions remit with ECT. Polarity is not a factor in the response rate. In this sample ECT did not precipitate mania in depressed patients. Treatment algorithms for UP and BP depression warrant re-evaluation.