Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Treatment of Depression in a Patient With Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Ochsner J. 2018 Fall;18(3):264-267. doi: 10.31486/toj.17.0075.


Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) commonly presents with a constellation of findings, including physical, cognitive, and psychological disturbances. Traditionally, few options have been available for long-term management of mood symptoms for post-TBI patients who are refractory to medications. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a promising alternative treatment.

Case report: A 37-year-old male with history of anxiety and bipolar depression incurred a TBI after a 60-foot fall. After his physical recovery, the patient had refractory depression. Eight months after the TBI event, he underwent a 6-week course of rTMS treatment and had a 70.8% improvement in mood symptoms by the end of the therapy as indicated by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, transitioning from severe to mild depression according to the scoring system. Clinical correlation during the months following conclusion of rTMS therapy showed no signs of remission or adverse side effects. The patient remains stable and lives independently 1 year after treatment with mood-stabilizing medications.

Conclusion: This case provides evidence for successful treatment of refractory depressive symptoms after severe TBI with the addition of rTMS to psychotherapy and mood-stabilizing medications, supporting the safety and tolerability of this novel therapeutic approach. Further studies are needed to validate the contribution of rTMS for management of mood symptoms in patients with TBI.

Keywords: Brain injuries–traumatic; depression; repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports