Magnetic Seizure Therapy for Depression Shows Limited Benefits

depression, PTSD, anxiety
Investigators sought to determine how magnetic seizure therapy compared against other forms of treatment in patients with treatment-resistant depression.

Magnetic seizure therapy (MST) was found to fare no better than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for treatment-resistant depression, according to results from a comprehensive intervention review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

MST is considered an alternative to ECT, which is a “last resort” due to associated cognitive adverse effects such as amnesia and disorientation.

The authors searched electronic databases for published, unpublished, and ongoing studies, as well as studies and relevant systematic reviews and conference proceedings of the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the annual scientific convention and meeting, and the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. The authors found 3 studies that compared MST with ECT for treatment-resistant depression in adults.

The authors reported skewed data and an imbalance in baseline characteristics in one study. In evaluating the remaining 2 studies, the authors found no clear differences in depressive symptoms between treatment groups (mean difference, 0.71; 95% CI, -2.23 to 3.65; 2 studies, 40 participants; very-low-certainty evidence).

Analysis of immediate and delayed memory performance showed no clear difference between MST and ECT. Quality of life was also not significantly different between the studies.

“Large, long, well-designed, and well-reported trials are needed to further examine the effects of MST,” the authors concluded.


Jiang J, Zhang C, Li C, et al. Magnetic seizure therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Published online June 16, 2021. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013528.pub2.