rTMS and tDCS for the Treatment of Catatonia: A Systematic Review. [Review]

Schizophrenia Research. 222:73-78, 2020 08.

Hansbauer M; Wagner E; Strube W; Roh A; Padberg F; Keeser D; Falkai P; Hasan A

Catatonia is a potentially life threatening syndrome in various psychiatric disorders. As first line treatment, benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are recommended. In some cases, benzodiazepines are ineffective and ECT is not available or contraindicated. Therefore, the search for new and alternative treatment strategies is of great importance.

To review the evidence for alternative neurostimulation treatment strategies (rTMS and tDCS) for catatonia according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

We performed a systematic literature search in several electronic databases. We also searched the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) and the ClinicalTrials.gov database to detect registered studies.

We identified nine publications on rTMS treatment and four publications on tDCS in catatonia. Most of the publications reported clinically relevant improvement of catatonic symptoms. Only two publications reported insufficient improvement. The available Bush-Francis Catatonia Rating Scale scores showed statistical significant improvement following rTMS and tDCS. We could not identify any finished clinical studies or case series, dedicated to this topic. We also could not identify any publications that compared first line treatment options with rTMS or tDCS.

Based on the case report literature, rTMS and tDCS might be promising alternative treatment strategies for patients who do not respond to benzodiazepines or in case ECT is not available or contraindicated. There are even hints that rTMS or tDCS might be an option in patients who respond to ECT but need long-term treatment to control catatonic symptoms. Further clinical trials are needed to allow for an evidence-based evaluation of potential risks and benefits of rTMS and tDCS for catatonia.