Improving long term patient outcomes from deep brain stimulation for treatment-refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder

Expert Rev Neurother. 2020 Jan;20(1):95-107. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2020.1694409. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Introduction: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has emerged as an effective treatment for patients with severe treatment-refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Over the past two decades, several clinical trials with multiple years of follow-up have shown that DBS offers long-term symptom relief for individuals with severe OCD, though a portion of patients do not achieve an adequate response.Areas covered: This review sought to summarize the literature on the efficacy and long-term effectiveness of DBS for OCD, and to identify strategies that have the potential to improve treatment outcomes.Expert opinion: Although this literature is just emerging, a small number of DBS enhancement strategies have shown promising initial results. More posterior targets along the striatal axis and at the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis appear to offer greater symptom relief than more anterior targets. Research is also beginning to demonstrate the feasibility of maximizing treatment outcomes with target selection based on neural activation patterns during symptom provocation and clinical presentation. Finally, integrating DBS with post-surgery exposure and response prevention therapy appears to be another promising approach. Definitive conclusions about these strategies are limited by a low number of studies with small sample sizes that will require multi-site replication.

Keywords: DBS; OCD; depression; internal capsule; neuromodulation; nucleus accumbens; stria terminalis; subthalamic nucleus; ventral capsule; ventral striatum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / methods
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome