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Magnetic Stimulation Found Effective for Depression

Last Updated: May 03, 2010.

The use of daily left prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is likely an effective and safe option for the treatment of major depressive disorder, according to a study in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- The use of daily left prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is likely an effective and safe option for the treatment of major depressive disorder, according to a study in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Mark S. George, M.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and colleagues randomized patients to rTMS or sham stimulation in a duration-adaptive trial that involved a three-week daily fixed-dose phase and a blinded three-week treatment extension for clinical improvers. Remission rates in the intention-to-treat sample of 190 subjects were compared. None of the subjects took antidepressants in the two weeks before baseline or during the study.

The researchers found that minimal adverse effects did not differ between the two groups, with an overall 88 percent retention rate (86 percent in the rTMS group and 90 percent in the sham group). There was a higher proportion of remitters in the rTMS group than the sham group (14.1 versus 5.1 percent). Most remitters experienced low antidepressant treatment resistance. In addition, nearly 30 percent of patients in the open-label follow-up experienced remission (30.2 percent in the originally active rTMS group and 29.6 percent in the sham group).

"The results of this study suggest that prefrontal rTMS is a monotherapy with few adverse effects and significant antidepressant effects for unipolar depressed patients who do not respond to medications or who cannot tolerate them," the authors write.

Neuronetics Inc. loaned the rTMS devices, head holders, and coils for the trial. Several study authors disclosed financial ties to Neuronetics and other medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

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