Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Concussion: A Systematic Review [Review]

SOURCE: Neuromodulation. 24(5):803-812, 2021 Jul.

AUTHORS: Mollica A; Safavifar F; Fralick M; Giacobbe P; Lipsman N; Burke MJ

Post-concussive symptoms (PCSs) are common, disabling, and challenging to manage. Evolving models of concussion pathophysiology suggest evidence of brain network dysfunction that may be amenable to neuromodulation. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has emerged as a potential novel treatment option for PCSs.

OBJECTIVES: To systematically review rTMS trials for the treatment of symptoms following concussion/mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of Pubmed/Medline, Embase, and PsychINFO databases were searched up to May 19, 2020. Studies were included if they were prospective rTMS treatment studies of patients with mTBI/concussion. Variables including patient demographics, study design, rTMS protocol parameters, primary outcome measures, and efficacy data were extracted and qualitatively synthesized. rTMS methodology and study quality were also evaluated.

RESULTS: Of the 342 studies identified, 11 met eligibility criteria and were included for synthesis. Forty-one percent of patients were female and age ranged from 18 to 65 (average age = 38.5 years). Post-concussive depression (seven studies) and headache (four studies) were the most commonly investigated symptoms. The majority of trials were sham-controlled with randomized control trial (RCT) designs, but all were small pilot samples (n < 30). Methodological heterogeneity and a low number of identified trials precluded quantitative meta-analysis. Regarding rTMS for post-concussive depression, positive results were found in two out of four studies with depression as a primary outcome, and all three studies that assessed depression as a secondary outcome. All four rTMS studies for post-concussive headache reported positive results.

CONCLUSIONS: rTMS for the treatment of concussion/mTBI shows promising preliminary results for post-concussive depression and headache, symptoms that otherwise have limited effective treatment options. More studies with larger sample sizes are needed to further establish potential efficacy.