Tagpatient experience

Reading of the Week: Is ECT Really Safe? The New Lancet Psychiatry Paper; Also, Antrim on His ECT (New Yorker)

From the Editor

Is it safe?

The first treatment of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was administered in 1938. Yet decades later, people still debate the safety of this treatment; a study found that one in five patients reported fear of death as a major concern. (And, yes, so many of our patients have seen that movie.)

In our first selection, we consider a new and important paper on this topic, just published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Dr. Tyler S. Kaster (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors attempt to answer the safety question by comparing those who received ECT with those who didn’t in the context of depression and inpatient care. “In this population-based study of more than 5000 admissions involving electroconvulsive therapy for inpatients with depression, the rate of serious medical events within 30 days was very low among those exposed to electroconvulsive therapy and a closely matched unexposed group (0.5 events per person-year vs 0.33 events per person-year), with those who received electroconvulsive therapy having a numerically lower risk of medical complications.” We look at the big study, with an eye on clinical implications.

ect-1945ECT machine (cira 1950)

In the other selection, we look at a new essay from The New Yorker. Writer Donald Antrim – an accomplished novelist and a MacArthur fellow – discusses his depression, his suicidal thoughts, and his decision to opt for ECT. He notes that after treatment: “I felt something that seemed brand new in my life, a sense of calm, even happiness.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Too Few Psychiatrists? Anderssen on the Gap in Access (Globe); Also, Cuijpers on Success in Depression Treatment (Expert Review)

From the Editor

After a break, the Readings are back. In the coming weeks, we will consider important papers on depression treatment, cannabis, help for the homeless, and more.

This week, there are two selections.

In the first selection, we consider the new Globe and Mail essay by reporter Erin Anderssen on the supply (or the lack of supply) of psychiatrists across Canada. This essay does a sparkling job of pulling together stories and reports, and includes an overview of the literature. It paints a familiar, if unsettling, picture of need unmatched by availability, and includes interviews and original data analysis.

She writes: “The modern psychiatrist can’t be everywhere. So they should be where Canadians need them most.”

We summarize the essay and some of the larger questions raised.

anderssenErin Anderssen

In the second selection, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s Pim Cuijpers writes about depression and treatment. Thinking about successful care, he asks a simple question: “When patients seek treatment, is a reduction of depressive symptoms really what they want, or do patients have other goals as well?”

DG

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