Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in Bipolar Disorder: A Systematic Review [Review]

SOURCE: Bipolar Disorders. 24(1):10-26, 2022 02.

AUTHORS: Konstantinou G; Hui J; Ortiz A; Kaster TS; Downar J; Blumberger DM;
Daskalakis ZJ

OBJECTIVES: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is commonly used in unipolar depression; yet, its evidence in bipolar disorder (BD) is limited. We sought to review the evidence on the use of rTMS across the different stages of BD.

METHODS: MEDLINE database was systematically searched using the PubMed interface following the PRISMA guidelines. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (i) randomized clinical trials (RCTs), open-label studies, and case series; (ii) specific evaluation of the treatment outcomes using psychometric scales; (iii) clinical studies in adults; and (iv) articles in the English language. The systematic review has been registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020192788).

RESULTS: Thirty-one papers were included in the review. Most studies included participants diagnosed with a bipolar depressive episode (N = 24), have yielded mixed findings, and have yet to reach a consensus on the most effective rTMS protocol. Few studies examined the effect of rTMS during manic (N = 5) or mixed episode (N = 1), or as maintenance treatment (N = 1). The limited data thus far suggest rTMS to be relatively safe and well tolerated. Small sample sizes, heterogeneity among study designs, patients and control groups recruited, rTMS parameters, and outcome measures are among the most significant limitations to these studies.

CONCLUSION: The current data regarding the application of rTMS in BD patients remain limited. More adequately powered sham-controlled studies are required to verify its efficacy. Large-scale clinical trials are needed to also determine whether its effects extend to manic and mixed episodes, as well as its role in mood stabilization and amelioration of suicidal behavior.