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Nerve stimulation treatments improve quality of life in depressed people, study shows

Published on 23/08/18 at 10:38am
Image Credit: Manu5

Nerve stimulation treatments can significantly improve depressed people’s quality of life, even in cases in which an individual continues to suffer from depression, according to a study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.

The study saw Washington University researchers test vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) treatment, which was approved by the FDA in 2005, on a group of 328 patients suffering from cases of depression in which four or more antidepressants had failed to work effectively.

The study which involved a total of 599 people, compared the group of 328 patients being treated with VNS plus any other treatments for depression, with a group of 271 people who were being treated with an array of different antidepressant treatments other than VNS, including antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroconvulsive therapy. The study demonstrated a clinically meaningful improvement in quality of life (QOL) in those patients treated with VNS, in comparison to those who were treated with other antidepressant treatments on their own.

"When evaluating patients with treatment-resistant depression, we need to focus more on their overall well-being," said principal investigator Charles R. Conway, MD, a Washington University professor of psychiatry. "A lot of patients are on as many as three, four or five antidepressant medications, and they are just barely getting by. But when you add a vagus nerve stimulator, it really can make a big difference in people's everyday lives."

The study hypothesized that the effects of VNS in treating conditions that are comorbid with depression may be key to the treatment’s effectiveness. “On the basis of previous evidence of beneficial effects of VNS on anxiety, alertness, cognition, and other symptoms often comorbid with depression, we hypothesized that VNS would improve QOL beyond standard antidepressant treatments,” the study says.

Louis Goss

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