Electroconvulsive Therapy May Benefit Patients With Huntington Disease

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Electroconvulsive therapy might be safe and reliable therapy for treatment of psychiatric symptoms in patients with Huntington disease.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be a reliable treatment for psychiatric symptoms in patients with Huntington disease (HD), according to data presented at the 2017 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, held May 20-24 in San Diego, California.

Psychiatric manifestations of HD include cognitive decline, depressive and manic symptoms, and psychosis. “Depressive symptoms affect one-third of patients with [HD], and suicidal ideation is 5 to 10 times more prevalent in patients with HD than in the general population,” said Antonio L. Nascimento, MD, who led a review of existing literature on the use of ECT in the treatment of psychiatric manifestations of HD.

“Although patients with HD might present psychiatric symptoms that could be treated with electroconvulsive therapy, there are few reports of the use of this form of somatic therapy in this population,” Dr Nascimento added.

The researchers searched PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge databases for the terms “Huntington’s Chorea” or “Huntington’s Disease” combined with “Electroconvulsive Therapy” or “ECT”; a final yield of 10 articles included 8 case reports and 2 case series (one that included 7 patients and one that included 6 patients).

“The current literature includes 21 case reports of patients with Huntington’s disease who were treated with ECT,” Dr Nascimento said in conclusion. “Twenty of these patients presented favorable results with ECT. No side effects of ECT that could render this procedure unsafe in this population have been described. ECT might be a safe and efficient therapy for psychiatric symptoms in patients with Huntington’s disease.”


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.

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor