Study of effect of nimodipine and acetaminophen on postictal symptoms in depressed patients after electroconvulsive therapy (SYNAPSE)

Joey P.A.J. Verdijk*, Julia C.M. Pottkämper, Esmée Verwijk, Guido A. van Wingen, Michel J.A.M. van Putten, Jeannette Hofmeijer, Jeroen A. van Waarde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Postictal phenomena as delirium, headache, nausea, myalgia, and anterograde and retrograde amnesia are common manifestations after seizures induced by electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Comparable postictal phenomena also contribute to the burden of patients with epilepsy. The pathophysiology of postictal phenomena is poorly understood and effective treatments are not available. Recently, seizure-induced cyclooxygenase (COX)-mediated postictal vasoconstriction, accompanied by cerebral hypoperfusion and hypoxia, has been identified as a candidate mechanism in experimentally induced seizures in rats. Vasodilatory treatment with acetaminophen or calcium antagonists reduced postictal hypoxia and postictal symptoms. The aim of this clinical trial is to study the effects of acetaminophen and nimodipine on postictal phenomena after ECT-induced seizures in patients suffering major depressive disorder. We hypothesize that (1) acetaminophen and nimodipine will reduce postictal electroencephalographic (EEG) phenomena, (2) acetaminophen and nimodipine will reduce magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of postictal cerebral hypoperfusion, (3) acetaminophen and nimodipine will reduce clinical postictal phenomena, and (4) postictal phenomena will correlate with measures of postictal hypoperfusion. Methods: We propose a prospective, three-condition cross-over design trial with randomized condition allocation, open-label treatment, and blinded end-point evaluation (PROBE design). Thirty-three patients (age > 17 years) suffering from a depressive episode treated with ECT will be included. Randomly and alternately, single doses of nimodipine (60 mg), acetaminophen (1000 mg), or water will be given two hours prior to each ECT session with a maximum of twelve sessions per patient. The primary outcome measure is ‘postictal EEG recovery time’, expressed and quantified as an adapted version of the temporal brain symmetry index, yielding a time constant for the duration of the postictal state on EEG. Secondary outcome measures include postictal cerebral perfusion, measured by arterial spin labelling MRI, and the postictal clinical ‘time to orientation’. Discussion: With this clinical trial, we will systematically study postictal EEG, MRI and clinical phenomena after ECT-induced seizures and will test the effects of vasodilatory treatment intending to reduce postictal symptoms. If an effect is established, this will provide a novel treatment of postictal symptoms in ECT patients. Ultimately, these findings may be generalized to patients with epilepsy. Trial registration: Inclusion in SYNAPSE started in December 2019. Prospective trial registration number is NCT04028596 on the international clinical trial register on July 22, 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Article number324
Issue number1
Early online date18 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Acetaminophen
  • Arterial spin labelling (or perfusion weighted imaging)
  • Cerebral perfusion
  • Depression
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy
  • Nimodipine
  • Postictal
  • PROBE design


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