Daily left prefrontal transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy for major depressive disorder: A sham-controlled randomized trial

Mark S. George, Sarah H. Lisanby, David Avery, William M. McDonald, Valerie Durkalski, Martina Pavlicova, Berry Anderson, Ziad Nahas, Peter Bulow, Paul Zarkowski, Paul E. Holtzheimer, Theresa Schwartz, Harold A. Sackeim

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648 Scopus citations


Context: Daily left prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been studied as a potential treatment for depression, but previous work had mixed outcomes and did not adequately mask sham conditions. Objective: To test whether daily left prefrontal rTMS safely and effectively treats major depressive disorder. Design: Prospective, multisite, randomized, active shamcontrolled (1:1 randomization), duration-adaptive design with 3 weeks of daily weekday treatment (fixeddose phase) followed by continued blinded treatment for up to another 3 weeks in improvers. Setting: Four US university hospital clinics. Patients: Approximately 860 outpatients were screened, yielding 199 antidepressant drug-free patients with unipolar nonpsychotic major depressive disorder. Intervention: We delivered rTMS to the left prefrontal cortex at 120% motor threshold (10 Hz, 4-second train duration, and 26-second intertrain interval) for 37.5 minutes (3000 pulses per session) using a figure-eight solidcore coil. Sham rTMS used a similar coil with a metal insert blocking the magnetic field and scalp electrodes that delivered matched somatosensory sensations. Main Outcome Measure: In the intention-to-treat sample (n=190), remission rates were compared for the 2 treatment arms using logistic regression and controlling for site, treatment resistance, age, and duration of the current depressive episode. Results: Patients, treaters, and raters were effectively masked. Minimal adverse effects did not differ by treatment arm, with an 88% retention rate (90% sham and 86% active). Primary efficacy analysis revealed a significant effect of treatment on the proportion of remitters (14.1% active rTMS and 5.1% sham) (P=.02). The odds of attaining remission were 4.2 times greater with active rTMS than with sham (95% confidence interval, 1.32-13.24). The number needed to treat was 12. Most remitters had low antidepressant treatment resistance. Almost 30% of patients remitted in the open-label follow-up (30.2% originally active and 29.6% sham). Conclusion: Daily left prefrontal rTMS as monotherapy produced statistically significant and clinically meaningful antidepressant therapeutic effects greater than sham. Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00149838.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-516
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


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