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A Qualitative Analysis of Nonresponse: Management of Treatment-Refractory Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(suppl 14):6-10

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), especially potent ones given at high doses over long periods of time, are often effective in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, a large percentage of patients do not respond to treatment with SRIs, and those who do respond often do not fully remit, which should be the standard goal of treatment in OCD. If a patient has been treated for several months and has not yet responded to treatment with several SRIs, the physician should perform a careful assessment of resistant and/or residual clinical symptoms and any comorbid conditions to determine which next-step treatment would be the most appropriate. One strategy for patients who have not responded to treatment with an SRI is to switch them to a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, because some patients may respond better to agents that target multiple systems. Another promising approach is the augmentation of SRIs with neuroleptics. In addition, open trials have shown that intravenous (IV) clomipramine and IV citalopram may be effective in the treatment of resistant OCD. Novel pharmacotherapeutic treatments and electroconvulsive therapy have been attempted, with mixed success. Recently, researchers have been studying repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagal nerve stimulation, and neurosurgical approaches such as gamma knife capsulotomy and deep brain stimulation to learn if these procedures are effective in treating treatment-resistant OCD. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation has possibilities not only as a therapy but also as an instrument that can help researchers describe the neurocircuitries involved in OCD. More results are needed before the effectiveness of the nonpharmacologic treatments for OCD can be determined.