A machine to treat drug-resistant depression
Twenty to 30 percent of patients with depression are estimated to be unresponsive or intolerant to antidepressive drugs. But when these patients are submitted to a few weeks’ sessions of a non-invasive technique called “repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation”, or rTMS, the clinical state of 41,5 to 56,4 percent of them substantially improves and between 26,5 e 28,7 percent are no longer depressed (the numbers vary according to the assessment scale being used).
The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU) has acquired the equipment to treat patients suffering from drug-resistant depression with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. The treatment consists in applying a magnetic field to the brain, which in turns generates electrical currents in the nervous tissue which are known to have a therapeutic impact on depression.
The new machine may also be used at the Champalimaud Clinical Centre to treat oncological patients, who frequently suffer from depression. According to Albino Oliveira-Maia, psychiatrist at the CCU, this had an additional advantage, which is to avoid unwanted interactions with the oncological drug treatments these patients are being submitted to.
Before launching the new treatment, says Albino Oliveira-Maia, “we first need to train people to operate the machine and find the most efficient ways to facilitate access to treatment. He hopes to begin treating patients in September.