BACKGROUND: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an FDA-approved, noninvasive modality for treating major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Earlier studies evaluating therapeutic effects of rTMS on symptom scores of patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) have yielded inconsistent findings.
METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies assessing the effect of rTMS on symptom scores in patients with GAD or PD with or without psychiatric comorbidities using studies published up to April 2021. We used DerSimonian-Laird random effects models to obtain pooled standardized mean difference (SMD) and 95% CI.
RESULTS: A total of 13 studies consisting of 677 participants (404 treated with rTMS and 273 without rTMS) were included in this meta-analysis. In GAD patients with or without any comorbidities, rTMS therapy demonstrated significant improvements in anxiety (SMD = 1.45; P < .001) and depression (SMD = 1.65; P < .001) scores regardless of rTMS parameters. Overall anxiety (SMD = 0.24; P = .48) and panic severity (SMD = 1.19; P = .054) scores did not significantly improve after rTMS therapy in patients with PD.
CONCLUSIONS: rTMS is safe and improves anxiety and depression scores only in GAD patients, regardless of underlying comorbidities or rTMS parameters.