Optimally combining transcranial magnetic stimulation with antidepressants in major depressive disorder: A systematic review and Meta-analysis

Gopalkumar Rakesh, Patrick Cordero, Rebika Khanal, Seth S Himelhoch, Craig R Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is a critical knowledge gap in optimally combining transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and antidepressants to treat patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). TMS is effective in treating MDD in patients who have failed at least one antidepressant trial, with accelerated protocols showing faster remission in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Although clinicians routinely augment antidepressants with TMS, there is a knowledge gap in stopping versus continuing antidepressants or the dosing strategies when starting or tapering TMS. These considerations are important when considering maintenance TMS (delivered alone or in combination with suitable antidepressants) to maintain remission in MDD after the index course of TMS. As the first step towards filling this knowledge gap, we reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and open-label trials from 2 databases (PubMed/Medline and EMBASE) that compared active TMS combined with a pre-specified antidepressant dosed in the same manner for adults with MDD versus sham TMS combined with the same antidepressant as in the active arm. All studies were published between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2023. We excluded case reports, case series, and clinical studies that augmented TMS with antidepressants and vice versa. We found 10 RCTs (n = 654 participants) and performed a meta-analysis. This showed active TMS combined with pre-specified antidepressants had greater efficacy for MDD treatment than sham TMS combined with the same antidepressants as in the active arm (Hedge's g = 1; 95 % CI [0.27, 1.73]). The review and meta-analysis indicate greater short-term efficacy in combining antidepressants with TMS from the get-go in MDD. Given the increasing role of accelerated TMS protocols in expediting remission in MDD and the results of our meta-analysis, we advocate for RCTs examining the short-term and long-term effects of various antidepressant classes on these TMS protocols in MDD. This can also optimize and individualize maintenance TMS protocols to prevent relapse in MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-439
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 11 2024

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