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Patients' perspectives on electroconvulsive therapy: systematic review

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 19 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1363
  1. Diana Rose, senior researcher (d.rose{at},
  2. Pete Fleischmann, researcher,
  3. Til Wykes, professor,
  4. Morven Leese, statistician,
  5. Jonathan Bindman, senior lecturer
  1. Service User Research Enterprise, PO34, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF
  2. Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry
  3. Health Services Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry
  1. Correspondence to: D Rose
  • Accepted 15 May 2003


Objective To ascertain patients' views on the benefits of and possible memory loss from electroconvulsive therapy.

Design Descriptive systematic review.

Data sources Psychinfo, Medline, Web of Science, and Social Science Citation Index databases, and bibliographies.

Study selection Articles with patients' views after treatment with electroconvulsive therapy.

Data extraction 26 studies carried out by clinicians and nine reports of work undertaken by patients or with the collaboration of patients were identified; 16 studies investigated the perceived benefit of electroconvulsive therapy and seven met criteria for investigating memory loss.

Data synthesis The studies showed heterogeneity. The methods used were associated with levels of perceived benefit. At least one third of patients reported persistent memory loss.

Conclusions The current statement for patients from the Royal College of Psychiatrists that over 80% of patients are satisfied with electroconvulsive therapy and that memory loss is not clinically important is unfounded.


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  • Editorial by Geddes and Carney

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the design of the study and the interpretation of the findings and were involved in writing the paper. The data were collected by DR and PF andanalysed by DR, TW, and ML. DR and PF have been recipients of electroconvulsive therapy. DR will act as guarantor for the paper.

  • Competing interests This paper is based on a report funded by a grant from the Department of Health, England. The Department of Health has given permission for publication but does not necessarily endorse the views contained in the paper.

  • Accepted 15 May 2003
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