A review of the efficacy of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatment for depression, and current and future strategies to optimize efficacy.

School of Psychiatry, University of NSW, Psychiatrist, Black Dog Institute and South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service, Australia.
Journal of Affective Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.71). 12/2005; 88(3):255-67. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2005.08.001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT There is a growing interest in extending the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) beyond research centres to the widespread clinical treatment of depression. Thus it is timely to critically review the evidence for the efficacy of rTMS as an antidepressant treatment. Factors relevant to the efficacy of rTMS are discussed along with the implications of these for the further optimization of rTMS.
Clinical trials of the efficacy of rTMS in depressed subjects are summarized and reviewed, focusing mainly on sham-controlled studies and meta-analyses published to date.
There is a fairly consistent statistical evidence for the superiority of rTMS over a sham control, though the degree of clinical improvement is not large. However, this data is derived mainly from two-week comparisons of rTMS versus sham, and evidence suggests greater efficacy with longer treatment courses. Studies so far have also varied greatly in approaches to rTMS stimulation (with respect to stimulation site, stimulus parameters etc) with little empirical evidence to inform on the relative merits of these approaches.
Only studies published in English were reviewed. Many of the studies in the literature had small sample sizes and different methodologies, making comparisons between studies difficult.
Current published studies and meta-analyses have evaluated the efficacy of rTMS as given in treatment paradigms that are almost certainly suboptimal (e.g of two weeks' duration). While the data nevertheless supports positive outcomes for rTMS, there is much scope for the further refinement and development of rTMS as an antidepressant treatment. Ongoing research is critical for optimizing the efficacy of rTMS.

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