Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Promotes Rapid Psychiatric Stabilization in Acutely Suicidal Military Service Members

SOURCE: Journal of ECT. 38(2):103-109, 2022 Jun 01.

AUTHORS: Hines CE; Mooney S; Watson NL; Looney SW; Wilkie DJ

OBJECTIVE: This study presents data for using accelerated transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as an intervention for suicidal crisis (SC).

METHODS: This prospective, single-site, randomized, double-blind trial enrolled active-duty military participants with SC to receive either active TMS (n = 59) or sham TMS (n = 61) 3 times per day for 3 consecutive days. Our primary outcome, the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation-current (SSI-C), was measured before each session of TMS. Secondary outcomes measured both the SSI-C and the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation-total daily for the 3 intervention days and at 1, 3, and 6 months of follow-up.

RESULTS: In the modified intention to treat (mITT) analysis of SSI-C changes over treatment sessions, the TMS active group had accelerated decline in suicidal ideation as compared with sham: beta for interaction was 0.12 points greater SSI-C decline per session (standard error [SE], 0.06) in TMS versus sham (P = 0.04). In both the mITT and per-protocol active TMS groups, the mean final SSI-C scores were below 3. These scores remained below 3 for the entire 6-month follow-up period.

CONCLUSIONS: In this military trial of suicidal patients, we found that both active and sham accelerated TMS rapidly reduces SC. Moreover, in the mITT analysis, there was a statistically significant antisuicidal benefit of active TMS versus sham TMS in the primary outcome. Both the mITT and per-protocol groups moved from higher to approximately 7 times lower suicide risk strata and remained there for the duration of the study. Further studies are warranted to understand accelerated TMS’ full potential as a treatment for SC.