BACKGROUND: Studies published over the past few years suggest that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may have significant antidepressant actions. In a previous report, we compared electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and repetitive TMS (rTMS) and found ECT to be superior for psychotic major depression (MD); however, ECT and rTMS had similar results in nonpsychotic MD. We now report on a controlled randomized comparison of ECT and rTMS in patients with nonpsychotic MD. METHODS: Forty patients with nonpsychotic MD referred for ECT were included.
Electroconvulsive therapy was performed according to established protocols.
Repetitive TMS was performed over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex at 90% motor threshold. Patients were treated with 20 sessions (five times per week for 4 weeks) of 10-Hz treatments (1200 pulses per treatment-day) at 90% motor threshold. Response to treatment was defined as a decrease of at least 50% in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) score, with a final HRSD equal or less than 10 points and a final Global Assessment of Function Scale rating of 60 or more points. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 58% (23 out of 40 patients responded to treatment). In the ECT group, 12 responded and eight did not; in the rTMS group, 11 responded and nine did not (chi2 =.10, ns). Thus, patients responded as well to either ECT or rTMS. CONCLUSIONS: This study adds to the growing literature supporting an antidepressant effect for rTMS. This study is particularly relevant because it suggests that rTMS and ECT reach similar results in nonpsychotic major depressive disorder.