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Original Research

Deep Brain Stimulation of the Ventral Capsule/Ventral Striatum for Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Decade of Clinical Follow-Up

Frederick L. Hitti, MD, PhDa; Mario A. Cristancho, MDb; Andrew I. Yang, MD, MSa; John P. O’Reardon, MDc; Mahendra T. Bhati, MDd,e; and Gordon H. Baltuch, MD, PhDa

Published: October 19, 2021


Objective: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an emerging therapy for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) that has shown variable efficacy. This report describes long-term outcomes of DBS for TRD.

Methods: A consecutive series of 8 patients with TRD were implanted with ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS) DBS systems as part of the Reclaim clinical trial. Outcomes from 2009 to 2020 were assessed using the Montgomery-Šsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Demographic information, MADRS scores, and data on adverse events were collected via retrospective chart review. MADRS scores were integrated over time using an area-under-the-curve technique.

Results: This cohort of patients had severe TRD—all had failed trials of ECT, and all had failed a minimum of 4 adequate medication trials. Mean ± SD follow-up for patients who continued to receive stimulation was 11.0 ± 0.4 years (7.8 ± 4.3 years for the entire cohort). At last follow-up, mean improvement in MADRS scores was 44.9% ± 42.7%. Response (≥ 50% improvement) and remission (MADRS score ≤ 10) rates at last follow-up were 50% and 25%, respectively. Two patients discontinued stimulation due to lack of efficacy, and another patient committed suicide after stimulation was discontinued due to recurrent mania. The majority of the cohort (63%) continued to receive stimulation through the end of the study.

Conclusions: While enthusiasm for DBS treatment of TRD has been tempered by recent randomized trials, this small open-label study demonstrates that some patients achieve meaningful and sustained clinical benefit. Further trials are required to determine the optimal stimulation parameters and patient populations for which DBS would be effective. Particular attention to factors including patient selection, integrative outcome measures, and long-term observation is essential for future trial design.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT00837486

Volume: 82

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