A large scale study, has revealed for the first time that transcranial magnetic stimulation is an effective, non-drug treatment for major depression.
Existing antidepressants do not prove beneficial for even one-third of depressed individuals and in fact leave a majority of them deprived of adequate treatment options.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain by magnetic pulses introduced through the scalp.
It was earlier considered as a potential new treatment for depression until smaller studies demonstrated conflicting results.
This first large scale, multi-center, double-blind, sham-controlled study was led by Dr. O'Reardon Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.
The study was administered to 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 getting 4-6 weeks of active or sham TMS, response and remission rates with active TMS were approximately double as those of sham.
The study was also related with a low dropout rate, due to mild side effects in general, signifying that the patients tolerated the treatment quite well.
"These results indicate that TMS provides a novel and attractive treatment option for patients with major depression who have not responded to conventional antidepressant medications," said Dr. O'Reardon.
The significance of this article's findings weer also highlighted by John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.
He said: "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."
Dr. O'Reardon added: "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."
This new study was published in the December 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry.