Comparison of clinical outcomes with two Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment protocols for major depressive disorder

Brain Stimul. 2021 Jan-Feb;14(1):173-180. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2020.12.003. Epub 2020 Dec 17.


Background: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an effective treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). The rest time between pulse trains is the inter-train interval (ITI). Since 2016, some TMS clinicians have adopted a stimulation protocol with shorter ITIs than were used in regulatory clinical trials.

Objective: To contrast treatment outcomes with the Standard TMS protocol (38.5 min per session) and the "Dash" protocol, which, at the shortest ITI, has a session duration of 18.75 min.

Methods: Registry data were collected at 103 practice sites. Of 7759 participants, 5010 were included in an intent-to-treat (ITT) sample, defined as a primary MDD diagnosis, age ≥ 18, and completion of the PHQ-9 before TMS and with at least one PHQ-9 assessment after baseline. Completers (N = 3814) were responders or had received ≥ 20 sessions and had an end of acute treatment PHQ-9 assessment. Within the ITT sample, 613 patients were treated with the Standard NeuroStar 38-min protocol and 1493 patients with the new Dash protocol. CGI-S ratings were obtained in smaller samples. Treatment outcomes were also examined in subgroups considered Completers, as well as the subgroups who met criteria for Full Adherence to the Standard or Dash protocol parameters.

Results: In the ITT, Completer, and Fully Adherent samples, response (58-72%) and remission (28-53%) rates were notably high across PHQ-9 and CGI-S ratings. The Standard and Dash protocols did not differ in number of treatment sessions, and both manifested strong antidepressant effects.

Conclusions: The Standard and Dash protocols did not meaningfully differ in efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Registries
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Treatment Outcome