Impact of Comorbid PTSD on Outcome of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Veterans With Depression

Objective: A recent randomized controlled trial of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for major depressive disorder (MDD) in veterans raised the question of whether comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) negatively impacted the outcome of TMS in veterans. To address this, a quality database was analyzed to compare outcomes of MDD treated with TMS in veterans with and without comorbid PTSD.

Methods: The clinical outcomes of all consecutive veterans with MDD treated with TMS at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital as outpatients from October 2013 through September 2018 were included. Patients were initially evaluated by an experienced psychiatrist, and the diagnosis of MDD was made by clinical evaluation per DSM-IV-TR/DSM-5 criteria. At the start of treatment, after every 5 treatments, and at the end of treatment, patients were assessed with self-report and clinician-rated scales of depression. All data were abstracted from an existing quality database.

Results: Among the 118 patients treated with TMS for depression, 55 (47%) had comorbid PTSD and 63 (53%) had no comorbid PTSD. Response and remission rates by score on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale were similar between patients with PTSD (52.5% and 40.9%, respectively) and without PTSD (53.8% and 35.6%, respectively). No seizures or persistent adverse effects were observed or reported in either group.

Conclusions: Comorbid PTSD did not impact the outcome of TMS for depression in this sample of veterans. Future studies should include formal ratings of PTSD to determine if the severity of PTSD affects the outcome.

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(4):19m13152