BACKGROUND: We conducted a study to examine regional variation in the utilization of inpatient electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) across the United States, and its impact on length of hospital stay and cost.
METHODS: Analysis of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample databases to compare patient and hospital characteristics, and regional variation of ECT administration across different regions of the United States.
RESULTS: The study included 41,055 inpatients who had ECT from 4,411 hospitals. Electroconvulsive therapy use is significantly higher in the Midwest. A higher proportion of females (65.2%) than males received ECT across the United States. Medicaid beneficiaries were less likely to undergo ECT compared with patients with Medicare (52.2%) or private insurance (32%). Electroconvulsive therapy was used mainly for mood disorders (84.3%). There were marked reductions of inpatient costs ($25,298 to $38,244) and average hospital stay (16 days) when ECT was initiated within the first 5 days of admission compared with later during the hospitalization.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a wide variability of utilization of ECT, depending on the region, type of hospital, and type of insurance carrier. The utilization of ECT services is reduced across the United States. Appropriate utilization of this effective treatment can greatly help patients who are not responding to standard therapeutics, reduce overall health care cost and length of stay, and, most importantly, alleviate suffering.