Three and six-month outcome following courses of either ECT or rTMS in a population of severely depressed individuals--preliminary report

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Apr 15;51(8):687-90. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(01)01274-4.


Background: Recent studies have strengthened the claim that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an effective treatment for major depression. The longitudinal outcome of TMS-treated patients, however, has not been described. We report on the 3- and 6-month outcomes of a group of patients treated with either electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (n = 20) or (rTMS) (n = 21).

Methods: Patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder with or without psychotic features referred for ECT were randomly assigned to receive either ECT or rTMS. Forty-one patients who responded to either treatment constituted the sample. Patients were followed on a monthly basis and outcomes were determined with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-17 items (HRSD) and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scales. Medications were routinely prescribed.

Results: There were no differences in the 6-month relapse rate between the groups. Overall, 20% of the patients relapsed (four from the ECT group and four from the rTMS group). Patients reported equally low and not significantly different scores in the HRSD (ECT group 8.4 +/- 5.6 and TMS group 7.9 +/- 7.1) and the GAF (ECT group 72.8 +/- 12 and TMS group 77.8 +/- 17.1) at the 6-month follow up.

Conclusions: Patients treated with rTMS do as well as those treated with ECT at the 3- and 6-month follow-up points. These data suggest that the clinical gains obtained with rTMS last at least as long as those obtained with ECT.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome