A review of the treatment for refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder: from medicine to deep brain stimulation

CNS Spectr. 2004 Nov;9(11):833-47. doi: 10.1017/s109285290000225x.


This article provides an overview of the etiology, epidemiology, and first-line treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The subject of treatment-resistant and treatment-refractory OCD is then discussed, including a definition of these often-debated terms, and the latest treatment options delineated. This includes a review of the latest research concerning the pharmacological agents that have been studied as monotherapy or augmenting agents for the treatment of OCD, the use of experimental medications and procedures, treatment with reversible, minimally invasive procedures, such as vagal nerve stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation, invasive but the potentially reversible deep brain stimulation, and irreversible lesioning with ablative psychosurgery. A discussion of the role of psychotherapy in the treatment of OCD is also included.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors