Prefrontal Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression in US Military Veterans – A Naturalistic Cohort Study in the Veterans Health Administration

Source: Journal of Affective Disorders. 297:671-678, 2022 01 15.

Authors: Madore MR; Kozel FA; Williams LM; Green LC; George MS; Holtzheimer PE;
Yesavage JA; Philip NS

BACKGROUND: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an evidence-based treatment for pharmacoresistant major depressive disorder (MDD), however, the evidence in veterans has been mixed. To this end, VA implemented a nationwide TMS program that included evaluating clinical outcomes within a naturalistic design. TMS was hypothesized to be safe and provide clinically meaningful reductions in MDD and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

METHODS: Inclusion criteria were MDD diagnosis and standard clinical TMS eligibility. Of the 770 patients enrolled between October 2017 and March 2020, 68.4% (n = 521) met threshold-level PTSD symptom criteria. Treatments generally used standard parameters (e.g., left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, 120% motor threshold, 10 Hz, 3000 pulses/treatment). Adequate dose was operationally defined as 30 sessions. MDD and PTSD symptoms were measured using the 9-item patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) and PTSD checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), respectively.

RESULTS: Of the 770 who received at least one session, TMS was associated with clinically meaningful (Cohen’s d>1.0) and statistically significant (all p<.001) reductions in MDD and PTSD. Of the 340 veterans who received an adequate dose, MDD response and remission rates were 41.4% and 20%, respectively. In veterans with comorbid PTSD, 65.3% demonstrated clinically meaningful reduction and 46.1% no longer met PTSD threshold criteria after TMS. Side effects were consistent with the known safety profile of TMS.

LIMITATIONS: Include those inherent to retrospective observational cohort study in Veterans.

CONCLUSIONS: These multisite, large-scale data supports the effectiveness and safety of TMS for veterans with MDD and PTSD using standard clinical approaches.