Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Effective
Treatment For Depression
November 21, 2007
For the first time in a large-scale study, transcranial magnetic stimulation has
been shown to be an effective, non-drug treatment for major depression. Current
antidepressant therapies are not beneficial for at least a third of depressed
individuals, leaving many with a lack of adequate treatment options. This study
will be published in the December 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry.
Co-author Dr. Philip Janicak, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical
Center, says the treatment may be an option for patients with major depression
who have not responded to conventional antidepressant medications.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive technique that excites
neurons in the brain by magnetic pulses introduced through the scalp, has
previously been identified as a potential new treatment for depression but
prior, smaller studies have shown conflicting results.
The authors present the results from the first large scale, multi-center,
double-blind, sham-controlled study of TMS as a treatment for people with
depression who had not responded to prior antidepressants and who were not
taking antidepressant medications during the study. After four to six weeks of
active or sham TMS, response and remission rates with active TMS were
approximately twice those of sham.
This study was also associated with a low dropout rate, due to generally mild
side effects, indicating that the treatment was well-tolerated by patients.
Dr. John P. O'Reardon, the corresponding author on this project and Associate
Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that
"These results indicate that TMS provides a novel and attractive treatment
option for patients with major depression who have not responded to conventional
Dr. John H. Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, highlights the
significance of this article's findings. "This study provides new support
for the efficacy of TMS as a 'stand alone' treatment for depression. This
finding could be particularly important for patients who do not tolerate
antidepressant medications, for whom they are not safe, or who have not
benefited from other alternative treatments."
O'Reardon adds, "As indicated by recent large scale, government-sponsored,
studies of existing treatment options for major depression conducted by the
National Institute of Health (the STAR-D reports), there is a great need to
develop new effective treatments for patients, especially those not benefiting
from first line interventions. The results of this study indicate that TMS
offers new hope to patients in this regard."
The article is "Efficacy and Safety of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in
the Acute Treatment of Major Depression: A Multisite Randomized Controlled
Trial" by John P. O'Reardon, H. Brent Solvason, Philip G. Janicak, Shirlene
Sampson, Keith E. Isenberg, Ziad Nahas, William M. McDonald, David Avery, Paul
B. Fitzgerald, Colleen Loo, Mark A. Demitrack, Mark S. George and Harold A.
The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 62, Issue 11
(December 1, 2007), published by Elsevier.
The full listing of the STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve
Depression) reports is available through the National Institutes of Health
clinical trials website, http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
The direct link is available here
Rush University Medical Center
Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com
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