Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression: Comparing Commonly Used Clinical Protocols

SOURCE: Journal of Traumatic Stress. 35(1):101-108, 2022 02.

AUTHORS: Philip NS; Doherty RA; Faucher C; Aiken E; van ‘t Wout-Frank M

ABSTRACT: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is increasingly being used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comorbid with major depressive disorder (MDD). Yet, identifying the most effective stimulation parameters remains an active area of research. We recently reported on the use of 5 Hz TMS to reduce PTSD and MDD symptoms. A recently developed form of TMS, intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS), appears noninferior for treating MDD. Because iTBS can be delivered in a fraction of the time, it provides significant logistical advantages; however, evaluations of whether iTBS provides comparable PTSD and MDD symptom reductions are lacking. We performed a retrospective chart review comparing clinical outcomes in veterans with PTSD and MDD who received iTBS (n = 10) with a matched cohort that received 5-Hz TMS (n = 10). Symptoms were evaluated using self-reported rating scales at baseline and every five treatments for up to 30 sessions. Both protocols were safe and reduced symptoms, ps < .001, but veterans who received iTBS reported poorer outcomes. These results were observed using mixed-model analyses, Group x Time interaction: p = .011, and effect sizes, where 5 Hz TMS demonstrated superior PTSD and MDD symptom improvement, ds = 1.81 and 1.51, respectively, versus iTBS, ds = 0.63 and 0.88, respectively. Data from prior controlled trials of iTBS, with increased stimulation exposure, have appeared to provide comparable clinical outcomes compared with 5 Hz TMS. Prospective and controlled comparisons are required; however, the present findings provide important information for clinicians using TMS to treat these commonly comorbid disorders.