• Deaths associated with electroconvulsive therapy given in a state hospital occurred in 5 instances out of a series of about 70,000 treatments given to 5,325 patients. The deceased patients were three men and two women, and their ages ranged from 38 to 57 years.
Autopsies were obtained in four of the five cases and yielded evidence of coronary artery disease that had not been clinically evident. These deaths were not predicted or predictable.
The fatality rate is low, and the figures express the inherent risk of treatment. Nevertheless, the possibility of alleviating the cardiovascular strain of this treatment by the use of oxygen, of various drugs, and of various other modifications of the technique should receive attention.
Alexander SP, Gahagan LH, Lewis WH. DEATHS FOLLOWING ELECTROTHERAPYREPORT OF FIVE DEATHS, WITH AUTOPSY FINDINGS IN FOUR CASES. JAMA. 1956;161(7):577–581. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02970070009003