Background: Noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial current stimulation (tCS) have the potential to mitigate a variety of symptoms associated with neurological and psychiatric conditions, including stroke, cerebral palsy, autism, depression, and Tourette syndrome. While the safety of these modalities has been established in adults, there is a paucity of research assessing the safety of NIBS among children.
Objective: To examine the existing literature regarding the safety of NIBS techniques in children and adolescents with neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Methods: An electronic search was performed on online databases for studies using NIBS in individuals less than 18 years of age. Non-English publications, diagnostic studies, electroconvulsive therapy, single/dual pulse TMS studies, and reviews were excluded. Adverse events reported in the studies were carefully examined and synthesized to understand the safety and tolerability of NIBS among children and adolescents.
Results: The data from 48 studies involving more than 513 children/adolescents (2.5-17.8 years of age) indicate that the side effects of NIBS were, in general, mild and transient [TMS: headache (11.5%), scalp discomfort (2.5%), twitching (1.2%), mood changes (1.2%), fatigue (0.9%), tinnitus (0.6%); tCS: tingling (11.5%), itching (5.8%), redness (4.7%), scalp discomfort (3.1%)] with relatively few serious adverse events.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that both repetitive TMS and tCS are safe modalities in children and adolescents with various neurological conditions, especially when safety guidelines are followed. The incidence of adverse events appears to be similar to that observed in adults; however, further studies with longer treatment and follow-up periods are needed to better understand the benefits and tolerance of long-term use of NIBS in children.
Keywords: Guidelines; Safety; TMS; Theta burst; Tolerability; tDCS.
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