Durability of symptomatic responses obtained with adjunctive vagus nerve stimulation in treatment-resistant depression

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2019 Feb 13;15:457-468. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S196665. eCollection 2019.


Objective: To compare the durations of response achieved with adjunctive vagus nerve stimulation (VNS + TAU) vs treatment as usual (TAU) alone in treatment-resistant depression (TRD) over a 5-year period in the TRD registry.

Materials and methods: Data from 271 participants on TAU and 328 participants on VNS + TAU were analyzed. Response was defined as ≥50% decrease in baseline Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score at postbaseline visit and was considered retained until the decrease was <40%. MADRS was obtained quarterly in year 1 and biannually thereafter. Time-to-events were estimated using Kaplan-Meier method and compared using log-rank test. HR was estimated using Cox proportion hazard model.

Results: In the VNS + TAU arm, 62.5% (205/328) of participants had a first response over 5 years compared with 39.9% (108/271) in TAU. The time to first response was significantly shorter for VNS + TAU than for TAU (P<0.01). For responders in the first year, median time to relapse from first response was 10.1 months (Q1=4.2, Q3=31.5) for VNS + TAU vs 7.3 months (Q1=3.1, Q3=17.6) for TAU (P<0.01). HR=0.6 (95% CI: 0.4, 0.9) revealed a significantly lower chance for relapse in VNS + TAU. Probability of retaining first response for a year was 0.39 (0.27, 0.51) for TAU and 0.47 (0.38, 0.56) for VNS + TAU. Timing of the onset of the response did not impact the durability of the response.

Conclusion: VNS therapy added to TAU in severe TRD leads to rapid onset and higher likelihood of response, and a greater durability of the response as compared to TAU alone.

Keywords: depressive disorder; durability of response; longitudinal study; treatment-resistant depression; vagus nerve stimulation.