Can electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) help Huntington’s disease (HD) patients manage their depression? That was the question asked by Antonio Nascimento, MD and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Using a literature review, the researchers found 21 case studies involving HD patients who received ECT. Of the 21 cases, it was observed that 20 patients had benefited from the often-controversial therapy. The data was presented at the 2017 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting held in San Diego, CA.
HD is an inherited brain disorder that results in the progressive loss of both mental and motor control with the symptoms usually appearing between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Symptoms worsen over a 10-to-25-year period until the patient eventually dies. Chorea is the most pronounced symptom of the condition but it is often the psychologic symptoms that create the biggest challenges for these patients and their caregivers.
Depression is a common symptom in HD patients and suicidal thoughts are 5-to-10 times more prevalent in patients with HD than in the general population.
Finding that ECT was effective with no noticeable longterm side effects in 20 of the 21 cases of HD patients with depression led authors to conclude that depressed HD patients may benefit from ECT where pharmaceutical options have not previously proven successful.
Nascimento AL, Buarque JT, Brasil MA. Electroconvulsive therapy for patients with psychiatric manifestations of Huntington´s disease: a systematic review. Presented at: 2017 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, May 20-24, San Diego, California. Abstract #P5-85.