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Vagus nerve stimulation in chronic treatment-resistant depression: Preliminary findings of an open-label study

  • Ciaran D. Corcoran (a1), Philip Thomas (a2), Jack Phillips (a2) and Veronica O'Keane (a3)

We evaluated the efficacy and safety of vagus nerve stimulation therapy in the treatment of 11 patients with chronic treatment-resistant depression. Mood was evaluated at frequent intervals over the year following implantation. All measures of depression, including the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression reduced significantly. The response and remission rates were 55% and 27% respectively at 1 year. Side-effects were common, and some were severe.

Corresponding author
Dr Ciaran Corcoran, Mental Health Unit, Leazes Wing, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK. Email:
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Declaration of interest

Cyberonics Incorporated, makers of the Neuro Cybernetic Prosthesis system, sponsored this study.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Vagus nerve stimulation in chronic treatment-resistant depression: Preliminary findings of an open-label study

  • Ciaran D. Corcoran (a1), Philip Thomas (a2), Jack Phillips (a2) and Veronica O'Keane (a3)
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Vagus nerve stimulation: Does my patient really want it?

Tejraj Tawde, Doctor
12 September 2006

At the outset I must admit that the open-labelled study by Corcoran C. D. et al (2006) is a commendable effort at addressing the desperate need of solutions to treat chronic treatment-resistant depression, especially in light of the looming threat of increasing global burden of the disorder.

The positive effects of vagus nerve stimulation are comprehensible and there seems less doubt about its beneficial antidepressant effect. Butwhat concerns me is the kind of unwanted effects of the intervention. The deaths and serious events like embolism might not be directly related to the intervention, although the rest of the adverse events are surely of concern. A significant point of note is the absence of assessment tools which could measure quality of life or global functioning of subjects in the treatment trial. Indeed the quality of life of chronic treatment-resistant depressed patients can be conceived to be poor, however the concern about the impact of this new treatment on the quality of life and global functioning is not answered by this study.

Putting myself in my patients' shoes I ask- Would I rather be perpetually depressed and let life pass by or feel slightly better facing very real disabling consequences in the bargain? Can I envisage how life will be with or even without successful treatment?
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