A review of the safety of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation as a clinical treatment for depression

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2008 Feb;11(1):131-47. doi: 10.1017/S1461145707007717. Epub 2007 Sep 20.


There is growing interest worldwide in rTMS as a clinical treatment for depression. Apart from efficacy, its safety as a clinical treatment must be considered before its widespread use can be advocated. All published, sham-controlled rTMS depression trials were reviewed for reported side-effects and outcomes of formal neuropsychological testing. In addition, all reports of seizures occurring with rTMS were reviewed. Other safety concerns (effects on hearing; headache, pain, induced currents in electrical circuits, histotoxicity, electromagnetic field exposure, psychiatric complications, safety in pregnancy) are discussed. Common side-effects were of a minor nature, e.g. headache. There was a low incidence of accidental seizures and induced hypomania, both of which were associated with identified risk factors for which subjects should be screened. Long-term effects of repeated rTMS sessions are as yet unknown. When given within recommended guidelines, the overall safety profile of rTMS is good, and supports its further development as a clinical treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Hearing / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / psychology