Depressed patients enjoy improved quality of life with nerve stimulation: study

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CHICAGO, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- People with depression who are treated with vagus nerve stimulation experience significant improvements in quality of life, according to a national study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study involved nearly 600 patients with depression that could not be alleviated by four or more antidepressants, taken either separately or in combination.

The researchers compared patients who received vagus nerve stimulation with others who received what they referred to as treatment as usual, including antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy or some combination.

They followed 328 patients implanted with vagus nerve stimulators, many of whom also took medication, and compared them with 271 similarly resistant depressed patients receiving only treatment as usual.

In assessing quality of life, the researchers evaluated 14 categories, including physical health, family relationships, ability to work and overall well-being.

In the study, patients with stimulators had significant gains in quality-of-life measures such as mood, ability to work, social relationships, family relationships and leisure activities, compared with those who received only treatment as usual.

"On about 10 of the 14 measures, those with vagus nerve stimulators did better," said Charles R. Conway, a Washington University professor of psychiatry.

A vagus nerve stimulator is surgically implanted under the skin in the neck or chest. Stimulation of the vagus nerve originally was tested in epilepsy patients who didn't respond to other treatments. The FDA approved the device for epilepsy in 1997, and approved it for treatment-resistant depression in 2005.

As many as two-thirds of the 14 million Americans with clinical depression aren't helped by the first antidepressant drug they are prescribed, and up to one-third don't respond to subsequent attempts with other such drugs.

The findings were published online August 21 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Enditem

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