Chronic VNS May Improve Quality of Life in Major Depressive Disorders

vagus nerve stimulation
vagus nerve stimulation
Adjunctive vagus nerve stimulation may result in greater improvements in quality of life in patients with treatment-resistant depression.

Chronic vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) may improve quality of life in individuals with treatment-resistant depression, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

For this study, researchers gathered 599 participants with bipolar or unipolar depression who had failed at least 4 adequate antidepressant trials from a multi-center longitudinal registry. Their goal was to compare individuals treated with antidepressants and VNS with those treated with antidepressants alone. The researchers found that, compared with the 271 participants treated with antidepressants alone, the 328 participants treated with VNS and antidepressants together showed a significant quality of life advantage that lasted for 5 years. The group that was treated with VNS and antidepressants together also showed a 34% decrease on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. 

The researchers relied on self-reported quality of life assessments based on the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form and administered the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale using blinded raters. The scores were compared via linear regression.

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Researchers concluded that “adjunctive VNS resulted in greater improvements in quality of life that are well beyond what treatment as usual provides, and these improvements were sustained.” 

Disclosure: Multiple authors report affiliations with drug companies. Please see reference for a full list of disclosures.


Conway CR, Kumar A, Xiong W, Bunker M, Aaronson ST, Rush AJ. Chronic vagus nerve stimulation significantly improves quality of life in treatment-resistant major depressionJ Clin Psychiatry. 2018;79(5):18m12178.