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June 1944

FATAL CIRCULATORY FAILURE CAUSED BY ELECTRIC SHOCK THERAPY

Arch NeurPsych. 1944;51(6):557-563. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1944.02290300059007
Abstract

At present convulsive therapy is widely used for certain psychoses, with beneficial results in a sufficiently large number of cases to insure its continuance. Recently the passage of an electric current through the frontal lobes of the brain has come to be the most generally favored method for the production of therapeutic convulsions.

That this type of therapy, regardless of the manner in which the convulsions are induced, may result in death from circulatory failure should not be ignored. There are probably at least two mechanisms by which electrically induced convulsions precipitate circulatory failure. One is by the overload imposed on the heart by the muscular exertion of the convulsion itself; the other is by the extent to which the current affects the central cardioregulatory and vasomotor centers.

Whether or not these circulatory disturbances are survived probably depends in part on the irritability of the cardioregulatory and vasomotor centers and

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