PURPOSE: Delirium in the intensive care unit (ICU) is conventionally treated pharmacologically but can progress into a protracted state refractory to medical treatment--a potentially life-threatening condition in itself. METHODS: We treated 5 cases of severe protracted delirium in our ICU with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) after failure of conventional medical therapy. RESULTS: The delirious state of long standing agitation, anxiety, and discomfort was controlled in all patients. Electroconvulsive therapy was effective in controlling delirium in 4 patients. The last patient became calm, relieved of stress, and able to cooperate with the ventilator but remained in a state of posttraumatic amnesia after a head trauma. CONCLUSION: Although controversial, ECT is nevertheless recognized as an efficient and safe treatment for various psychiatric illnesses including delirium. Considering the significantly increased mortality and severe cognitive decline associated with delirium in the ICU, we find ECT to be a valuable treatment option for this vulnerable patient population. It can be considered when agitation cannot be controlled with medical treatment, when agitation and delirium make weaning impossible, or prolonged deep sedation the only alternative.
Journal of Critical Care, 2014, Vol 29, Issue 5
Adult; Aged; Deep Sedation; Delirium; Electroconvulsive Therapy; Female; Humans; Hypnotics and Sedatives; Intensive Care Units; Male; Middle Aged; Psychomotor Agitation; Case Reports; Journal Article; Review