The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Comparison of unlimited numbers of rapid transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and ECT treatment sessions in major depressive episode

Saxby Pridmore a1a2c1, Raimondo Bruno a3, Yvonne Turnier-Shea a2, Phil Reid a2 and Mazena Rybak a2
a1 Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania
a2 Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal Hobart Hospital, Tasmania
a3 School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a new technology which holds promise as a treatment of psychiatric disorders. Most work to date has been on depression. Superiority to placebo has been indicated in three small blind studies. We compared the antidepressant effects of rTMS and ECT in 32 patients suffering major depressive episode (MDE) who had failed to respond to at least one course of medication. There was no limit to the number of treatment sessions which could be given and treatment was continued until remission occurred or response plateaued. A significant main effect for treatment type was found [Pillai trace = 0.248, F(3,28) = 3.076, p = 0.044; power = 0.656], reflecting an advantage for ECT patients on measures of depression overall, however, rTMS produced comparable results on a number of measures. Blind raters using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) found the rate of remission (HDRS = [less-than-or-eq, slant] 8) was the same (68.8%), and the percentage improvement over the course of treatment of 55.6% (rTMS) and 66.4% (ECT), while favouring ECT, was not significantly different. Significant differences were shown (p < 0.03) in percentage improvement on Beck Depression Inventory ratings (rTMS, 45.5%; ECT, 69.1%), but not for improvement in Visual Analogue ratings of mood (rTMS 42.3%; ECT, 57%). rTMS has antidepressant effects of useful proportions and further studies are indicated.

(Received August 15 1999)
(Reviewed November 7 1999)
(Revised November 24 1999)
(Accepted December 8 1999)

Key Words: Transcranial magnetic stimulation; electroconvulsive therapy; depression.

c1 Address for correspondence: Professor S. Pridmore, Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 7000. Tel.: +61 3 6222 8804 Fax: +61 3 6234 7889 E-mail: