Comparative effectiveness clinical trial of magnetic seizure therapy and electroconvulsive therapy in major depressive disorder

BACKGROUND: Magnetic seizure therapy (MST) has demonstrated fewer cognitive side effects than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in antidepressant efficacy trials. However, there are no effectiveness trials examining antidepressant efficacy and cognitive side effects against ECT. The aims of this study were to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of MST vs ECT in major depressive disorder (MDD), and compare the cognitive side effects of MST and ECT.

METHODS: In this open-label study, patients were assigned to either ECT or high-dose MST twice a week for 5 sessions based on the clinician’s and the patient’s decision-making. Efficacy was primarily assessed by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale-21 (HAMD-21); cognitive side effects were assessed by time to reorientation (TRO) and cognitive battery.

RESULTS: Sixty patients were enrolled. Efficacy was similar between those assigned to MST (n = 30) and ECT (n = 30). Post-treatment HAMD-21 mean scores were 12.33 after MST, 12.80 after bitemporal (BT) ECT (n = 15), and 27.93 after right unilateral (RUL) ECT (n = 15). Magnetic seizure therapy had a significantly faster TRO of 1.8 minutes (standard deviation [SD] = 0.37) compared with ECT (RUL: 18.9 minutes [SD = 8.25]; BT: 50.2 minutes [SD = 5.89]) and had fewer cognitive side effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Magnetic seizure therapy was effective for the treatment of MDD in real-world clinical care, with fewer cognitive side effects than ECT. Future studies are warranted to replicate these findings.

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