Deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression: follow-up after 3 to 6 years

Am J Psychiatry. 2011 May;168(5):502-10. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10081187. Epub 2011 Feb 1.


Objective: A prevalence of at least 30% for treatment-resistant depression has prompted the investigation of alternative treatment strategies. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a promising targeted approach involving the bilateral placement of electrodes at specific neuroanatomical sites. Given the invasive and experimental nature of DBS for treatment-resistant depression, it is important to obtain both short-term and long-term effectiveness and safety data. This report represents an extended follow-up of 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression who received DBS to the subcallosal cingulate gyrus (Brodmann's area 25).

Method: After an initial 12-month study of DBS, patients were seen annually and at a last follow-up visit to assess depression severity, functional outcomes, and adverse events.

Results: The average response rates 1, 2, and 3 years after DBS implantation were 62.5%, 46.2%, and 75%, respectively. At the last follow-up visit (range=3-6 years), the average response rate was 64.3%. Functional impairment in the areas of physical health and social functioning progressively improved up to the last follow-up visit. No significant adverse events were reported during this follow-up, although two patients died by suicide during depressive relapses.

Conclusions: These data suggest that in the long term, DBS remains a safe and effective treatment for treatment-resistant depression. Additional trials with larger samples are needed to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gyrus Cinguli
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Failure