Case Report: Rapid Symptom Resolution of a Mixed Affective State with High-Frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

SOURCE: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 14 (no pagination), 2023. Article Number: 1137055.


AUTHORS: Beydler E.M.; Katzell L.; Schmidt L.; Carr B.R.; Holbert R.C.

INTRODUCTION: Bipolar major depressive episodes with mixed features are diagnosed in patients who meet the full criteria for a major depressive episode exhibiting three additional concurrent symptoms of hypomania or mania. Up to half of patients with bipolar disorder experience mixed episodes, which are more likely to be treatment-refractory than pure depression or mania/hypomania alone. Case: We present a 68-year-old female with Bipolar Type II Disorder with a four-month medication-refractory major depressive episode with mixed features referred for neuromodulation consultation. Previous failed medication trials over several years included lithium, valproate, lamotrigine, topiramate, and quetiapine. She had no history of treatment with neuromodulation. At the initial consultation, her baseline Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) was moderate in severity at 32. Her Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) was 22, with dysphoric hypomanic symptoms consisting of heightened irritability, verbosity and increased rate of speech, and decreased sleep. She declined electroconvulsive therapy but elected to receive repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).

INTERVENTION(S): The patient underwent repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) with a Neuronetics NeuroStar system, receiving nine daily sessions over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Standard settings of 120% MT, 10 Hz (4 sec on, 26 sec off), and 3,000 pulses/session were used. Her acute symptoms showed a brisk response, and at the final treatment, her repeat MADRS was 2, and YMRS was 0. The patient reported feeling “great,” which she defined as feeling stable with minimal depression and hypomania for the first time in years.

CONCLUSION(S): Mixed episodes present a treatment challenge given their limited treatment options and diminished responses. Previous research has shown decreased efficacy of lithium and antipsychotics in mixed episodes with dysphoric mood such as the episode our patient experienced. One open-label study of low-Frequency right-sided rTMS showed promising results in patients with treatment-refractory depression with mixed features, but the role of rTMS in the management of these episodes is largely unexplored. Given the concern for potential manic mood switches, further investigation into the laterality, frequency, anatomical target, and efficacy of rTMS for bipolar major depressive episodes with mixed features is warranted.