Propofol is a new anesthetic induction agent that reduces electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) seizure duration. To indirectly investigate the effect of propofol on ECT-induced acute central neurotransmitter changes, we studied neuroendocrine responses in 25 primary depressed subjects treated with ECT under either propofol or thiopentone anesthesia. Blood samples were taken prior to ECT, and then at regular intervals for 2 hr. Only the prolactin response correlated significantly with seizure duration (r = 0.52, p < 0.01). Subjects given propofol had significantly reduced adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) (p < 0.01) and cortisol (p < 0.05) responses compared to thiopentone, which were independent of seizure duration. There was a trend towards a reduction in the prolactin response with propofol compared to thiopentone, but this was dependent upon the diminished seizure duration. The results indicate that propofol effects endocrine responses to ECT by two distinct mechanisms: decreasing prolactin by reducing the seizure duration and decreasing ACTH and cortisol by another process, possibly via a reduction in central noradrenergic activation. © 1990.
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