BACKGROUND: Preliminary data suggest that focal electrically administered seizure therapy (FEAST) has antidepressant effects and less adverse cognitive effects than traditional forms of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This study compared the impact of FEAST and ultrabrief pulse, right unilateral (UB-RUL) ECT on suicidal ideation.
METHODS: At 2 sites, patients in a major depressive episode were treated openly with FEAST or UB-RUL ECT, depending on their preference. The primary outcome measure was scores on the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI). Scores on the suicide item of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD-SI) provided a secondary outcome measure.
RESULTS: Thirty-nine patients were included in the intent-to-treat sample (FEAST, n = 20; UB-RUL ECT, n = 19). Scores on both the SSI and HRSD-SI were equivalently reduced with both interventions. Both responders and nonresponders to the interventions showed substantial reductions in SSI and HRSD-SI scores, although the magnitude of improvement was greater among treatment responders.
CONCLUSIONS: Although limited by the open-label, nonrandomized design, FEAST showed comparable effects on suicidal ideation when compared with routine use of UB-RUL ECT. These results are encouraging and support the need for further research and a noninferiority trial.