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Camphor-induced and pentylenetetrazol-induced brain seizures were first used to relieve psychiatric illnesses in 1934. Electrical inductions (electroconvulsive therapy, ECT) followed in 1938. These were easier and less expensive to administer and quickly became the main treatment method. In 1957, seizure induction with the inhalant anesthetic flurothyl was tested and found to be clinically effective.For many decades, complaints of memory loss have stigmatized and inhibited ECT use. Many variations of electricity in form, electrode placement, dosing, and stimulation method offered some relief, but complaints still limit its use. The experience with chemical inductions of seizures was reviewed based on searches for reports of each agent in Medline and in the archival files of original studies by the early investigators. Camphor injections were inefficient and were rapidly replaced by pentylenetetrazol. These were effective but difficult to administer. Flurothyl inhalation-induced seizures were as clinically effective as electrical inductions with lesser effects on memory functions. Flurothyl inductions were discarded because of the persistence of the ethereal aroma and the fears induced in the professional staff that they might seize. Persistent complaints of memory loss plague electricity induced seizures. Flurothyl induced seizures are clinically as effective without the memory effects associated with electricity. Reexamination of seizure inductions using flurothyl in modern anesthesia facilities is encouraged to relieve medication-resistant patients with mood disorders and catatonia.


Kathryn Cooper, Max Fink. The chemical induction of seizures in psychiatric therapy: were flurothyl (indoklon) and pentylenetetrazol (metrazol) abandoned prematurely? Journal of clinical psychopharmacology. 2014 Oct;34(5):602-7

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PMID: 25029329

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