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Review: electroconvulsive therapy reduces depressive symptoms

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 QUESTION: What are the benefits and harms of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in patients with depressive disorders?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Biological Abstracts (1985 to September 2000), CINAHL (1982 to January 2001), EMBASE/Excerpta Medica (1980–2000), LILACS (1982 to January 2001), Medline (1966–2000), PsycINFO (1887–2000), SIGLE (1980–2000), and the Cochrane Library; and by reviewing reference lists and specialist textbooks.

Study selection

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were selected if they compared ECT with no ECT, ECT with pharmacotherapy, or different types of ECT in patients with depressive illness.

Data extraction

Reviewers independently extracted data on treatment comparisons, inclusion criteria, patient characteristics and co-treatment, and outcomes. Main outcome was change in symptoms on a continuous depressive symptom scale. Quality of RCTs was …

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  • Source of funding: UK Secretary of State for Health.

  • For correspondence: Professor J Geddes for the UK ECT Review Group, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. John.geddes{at}