Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) during pregnancy: Quantifying and assessing the electric field strength inside the foetal brain

Behailu Kibret, Malin Premaratne, Caley Sullivan, Richard H. Thomson, Paul B. Fitzgerald

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective treatment option for severe mental illness during pregnancy. However, there is little knowledge about the amount of electric field produced inside the foetus, which is important to understand the effects of ECT on the foetal excitable tissues. Thus, in this paper, the electric field strength inside the foetus was computed and compared to the basic restriction of the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). A computational human phantom representing a 30-weeks pregnant female, four types of electrode placements and a range of stimulus pulse width (0.25 ms-2 ms) and frequency (10 Hz-140 Hz) were used to compute the electric field inside the foetus. A linear relationship between the maximum electric field inside the foetal brain and the electrode current was derived. The results suggest that, considering the maximum current output, pulse width, and frequency range of constant-current ECT devices, the electric field produced inside the foetal brain is most likely below the ICNIRP basic restriction. This is based on the practical scenario of a 30-weeks foetus with a bottom-up and head-down foetal position and the mother taller than 1.62 m.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4128
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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