Symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) are reported to change early in treatment with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). We evaluated early changes in sleep, anxiety, and mood as predictors of nonresponse to rTMS treatment.
Three hundred twenty-nine subjects with nonpsychotic MDD completed a 6-week course of rTMS treatment. Subjects were stratified by the severity of their baseline depression, and had their overall depressive symptoms recorded every week of treatment. We evaluated lack of improvement in sleep, anxiety, and mood symptoms after 1 and 2 weeks as potential predictors of eventual nonresponse, defined as <50% improvement in compositive depressive symptoms after 6 weeks. This was measured as negative predictive value (NPV; the likelihood that lack of early symptom improvement accurately predicted eventual treatment nonresponse).
Subjects with severe or very severe baseline depression achieving <20% improvement in mood at 1 week were correctly predicted as nonresponders with NPVs largely >90%. At 2 weeks, subjects with very severe baseline depression who failed to demonstrate any improvement in mood were all nonresponders. Lack of improvement in sleep at 2 weeks was also a significant predictor.
Identifying a lack of early mood improvement is a practical and robust method to predict rTMS nonresponse. This suggests a treatment protocol change may be indicated in patients with more severe baseline depression showing minimal early mood improvement.