Good News: Study Reveals TMS Gives Lasting Depression Relief


There is good news for people with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.

The short-term benefit of the depression treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has already been demonstrated. Now, the results of a 12-month study show the effects of TMS treatment are long-lasting.

“This is great news for our field and for the millions of patients who suffer from depression and do not respond well to medications,” said Dr. Mark George, a TMS researcher since 1994.

A Bit About TMS

Transcranial magnetic stimulation treatments are given by placing an electromagnet on a person’s scalp. The electromagnet emits short repetitive pulses aimed at the brain’s limbic system. The pulses travel through skin and bone, without becoming distorted, to the brain’s limbic structures such as the hippocampus and amygdala. These structures play a significant role in mood regulation.

The TMS pulses activate neurons in the limbic areas, triggering neuro-chemical changes such as the release of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – neurotransmitters known to enhance mood.

The Long-Term Study

Individuals received a standard treatment regimen, adjusted to fit their individual needs. The TMS was given daily for four to six weeks.

  1. The primary diagnosis of the study participants was unipolar, major depressive disorder without psychotic features. About 67 percent of the participants were women.
  2. Researchers initially studied 307 depressed patients; 62 percent experienced symptom improvement and 41 percent reported complete remission with acute TMS treatment. Of these, 257 entered a 12-month long-term follow-up study.
  3. Those in the follow-up study were tapered off the acute TMS treatment and were observed for 52 weeks.
  4. Outcomes measurements were taken at three, six, nine and 12 months.
  5. At 52 weeks, 68 percent of the study subjects reported symptom improvement and 45 percent experienced complete remission. Maintenance included a practical regimen of continued antidepressant use and access to TMS for recurring symptoms.

“I think this will really be impressive for confirming the long-term durability of this effect to potential payers,” said a study investigator. “This is exciting times for psychiatrists and patients, who have a new treatment option to pursue. The durability ... demonstrated by this robust, real-world study is remarkable, as it’s not typical to see long-term benefit in patients who have treatment-resistant forms of depression.”

Source: Medscape


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