Feb. 13, 2019
Magnetic seizure therapy could one day replace electroconvulsive therapy as gold standard treatment
News release originally published by Lawson Health Research Institute.
LONDON, ON – Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute are offering new hope to patients with treatment-resistant depression through participation in a national clinical trial. The study is the first randomized controlled trial to examine the efficacy of a new treatment called magnetic seizure therapy (MST) for patients with treatment-resistant depression as a result of bipolar disorder.
Treatment-resistant depression is a severe form of depression that does not respond to traditional therapies like medication. It is particularly common in patients with depression from bipolar disorder who are left with limited treatment options.
For years electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been the gold standard for patients with treatment-resistant depression. ECT uses an electric field to induce a seizure that provides a therapeutic benefit. But while ECT is effective, many patients opt out of treatment due to stigma surrounding the therapy and the potential for cognitive side effects like disorientation and amnesia.
MST has emerged as a promising alternative. MST works in a similar way to ECT but uses a focused magnetic field as opposed to electricity. As a result, MST induces a more focused seizure to reduce the risk of cognitive side effects.
“Magnetic seizure therapy has already been shown as a promising treatment for major depressive disorder or unipolar depression,” explains Dr. Amer Burhan, local site lead, researcher at Lawson and neuropsychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “For the first time, we’re studying how effective the treatment is for depression as a result of bipolar disorder and whether it can reduce the risk of cognitive side effects associated with electroconvulsive therapy.”
The clinical trial is being led by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and will also be offered through Lawson and University of British Columbia (UBC) Hospital. Lawson researchers will invite eligible patients with treatment-resistant depression from bipolar disorder to participate in the trial at Parkwood Institute, a part of St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
Eligible patients will be randomized to receive either ECT or MST. Patients will be offered support throughout the study with the goal of improving patient outcomes in both groups. Patient outcomes will be compared to study the efficacy of MST and whether it is associated with reduced cognitive side effects.
MST will be delivered under anesthesia in 12 to 20 sessions. Sessions will last 10 to 15 minutes each with 60 to 90 minutes of recovery time.
“Magnetic seizure therapy holds promise of one day replacing electroconvulsive therapy as the gold standard for treatment-resistant depression,” says Dr. Burhan. If proven as a viable first-line treatment, MST would be very easy to implement in existing ECT clinics. MST would therefore be readily available to patients in need.
“We are on the leading edge of the field of brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression in collaboration with CAMH and UBC,” says Dr. Burhan. “Our goal is to continue informing the care process through clinically-relevant research that serves patients, medical professionals and the public.”
Lawson Health Research Institute: As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care London, and working in partnership with Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world. www.lawsonresearch.ca