Impact on Electroconvulsive Therapy Services, Including Patient Relapse and Death, During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Quantitative Results From a Multinational Survey

Shanthi Sarma, Grace Branjerdporn, Laura McCosker, Vanessa Dong, Donel M. Martin, Colleen K. Loo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is important in the management of major, life-threatening, and treatment-resistant psychiatric illness. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted ECT services. The need for new infection control measures, staff redeployment and shortages, and the perception that ECT is as an “elective” procedure have caused changes to, and reductions in, ECT delivery. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of COVID-19 on ECT services, staff, and patients globally.

Methods

Data were collected using an electronic, mixed-methods, cross-sectional survey. The survey was open from March to November 2021. Clinical directors in ECT services, their delegates, and anesthetists were asked to participate. Quantitative findings are reported.

Results

One hundred and twelve participants worldwide completed the survey. The study identified significant impacts on services, staff, and patients. Importantly, most participants (57.8%; n = 63) reported their services made at least 1 change to ECT delivery. More than three-quarters (81.0%; n = 73) reported that their service had identified at least 1 patient who could not access ECT. More than two-thirds (71.4%; n = 67) reported that their service identified patients who experienced a relapse in their psychiatric illness due to lack of ECT access. Six participants (7.6%) reported that their service had identified at least 1 patient who died, by suicide or other means, due to lack of ECT access.

Conclusions

All ECT practices surveyed were impacted by COVID-19 with decreases in capacity, staffing, changes in workflow, and personal protective equipment requirements with relatively little change to ECT technique. Lack of access to ECT resulted in significant morbidity and mortality, including suicide, internationally. This is the first multisite, international survey to explore the impacts of COVID-19 on ECT services, staff, and patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-184
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of ECT
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

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