Pharmacopsychiatry 2024; 57(01): 30-34
DOI: 10.1055/a-2197-9635
Original Paper

Augmentation of Electroconvulsive Therapy with Oral Caffeine: A Retrospective Analysis of 40 Patients with Major Depression

Peter Nyhuis
1   Klinik für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik, St. Marien Hospital Eickel, Herne, Germany
Dorothea Mücke
1   Klinik für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik, St. Marien Hospital Eickel, Herne, Germany
Michael Specka
2   LVR-University Hospital Essen, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany
Norbert Scherbaum
2   LVR-University Hospital Essen, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany
› Author Affiliations


Objective Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of injectable caffeine as an augmentation method in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This study investigated whether orally administered caffeine increases seizure duration during ECT.

Methods Medical records of 40 patients treated with a series of ECT were retrospectively analyzed. Patients whose electroencephalogram (EEG) seizure duration had dropped<30 s, or motor seizure duration<15 s were included. They subsequently received oral caffeine (0.2 g) before ECT sessions. Primary outcomes were EEG seizure duration and motor seizure duration, compared with those from the last pre-caffeine session (baseline) and the first five caffeine-augmented sessions. The mental state was assessed with the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF). In addition, data on maximum heart rate, maximal arterial pressure, and adverse effects were collected.

Results The EEG seizure duration increased by 14.9 s (52%) on average between baseline and the first caffeine-augmented session. The increased length remained widely stable over the subsequent ECT sessions. EEG seizure duration was>30 s in more than 80% of sessions. A statistically significant increase in motor seizure duration appeared only in the 2nd and 3rd of five sessions with augmentation. Oral caffeine pretreatment was overall well tolerated. The percentage of patients with at least serious mental impairment (GAF score≤50) dropped from 77.5 to 15%.

Conclusions Results suggest the utility of oral caffeine (0.2 g) to increase ECT-induced seizures in patients with durations below clinically significant thresholds.

Publication History

Received: 28 July 2023
Received: 06 October 2023

Accepted: 12 October 2023

Article published online:
23 November 2023

© 2023. Thieme. All rights reserved.

Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany

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