Effects of general anesthetic agents in adults receiving electroconvulsive therapy: A systematic review

W. Michael Hooten, Keith G. Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Objectives: Our primary objective was to conduct a systematic review to determine the differential effects of general anesthetic agents on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) induced motor and electroencephalogram seizure duration. Our secondary objective was to determine the differential effects of induction agents on emergence time, recovery time, and the occurrence of adverse cardiac events and drug effects. MATERIALS AND Methods: We searched 4 electronic databases for randomized, crossover, and parallel trials. The weighted mean difference was calculated for continuous variables, whereas the risk difference was assessed for dichotomous variables. We combined crossover- and parallel-designed trials using the inverse variance method, and the random-effects model was used throughout. Results: Forty-one randomized trials involving 14 induction agents were included. The quality of trials was poor. Clinical and statistical heterogeneity were identified throughout. The most commonly studied comparison was methohexital versus propofol, where the mean motor seizure duration with methohexital was longer compared with that of propofol (weighted mean difference, 9.06 seconds; 95% confidence interval, 5.72-12.40). However, combining methohexital or propofol with a short-acting opioid prolonged seizure duration. Small but significant variations in emergence and recovery times were identified. Inadequate data were available to draw conclusions regarding adverse cardiac events and drug effects. No deaths were reported. Conclusions: Whereas the relationship between ECT seizure length and efficacy remains unclear, all of the available induction agents in this review would be appropriate for ECT. When the clinician needs to prolong seizure length, methohexital or the addition of a short-acting opioid to methohexital or propofol should be considered. The small variations in emergence and recovery times should not govern the choice of an induction agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-223
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of ECT
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008



  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • General anesthesia
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this