Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is now an established, safe, and effective treatment for adults with depression. However, specific research in rTMS for use in elderly patients with acute depression is scarce.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the efficacy of add-on rTMS in a clinical sample of older adults experiencing an acute phase of depression.
This study examined 114 patients (54 elderly [aged ≥60] and 60 adults [aged 18-59]) with acute depression who were drug free at baseline. They were treated with at least 10 sessions of rTMS for 4 weeks along with 1 antidepressant. Symptoms of depression were measured using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression at baseline and after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment. Clinical improvement and rates of response and remission were compared across groups.
Significant improvement was noted after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment in both adult and elderly groups. Higher remission rates were found in adult patients but with no differences in response. The stimulation intensity and course of illness were significant predictors of remission after 4 weeks of rTMS treatment in the elderly.
The add-on rTMS treatment for elderly depression patients is promising with respect to safety and feasibility. This preliminary evidence supports the application of rTMS to this group during acute episodes.