London

New therapy could help people with treatment-resistant depression

Patients in London, Ont., will be part of a groundbreaking national clinical trial of magnetic seizure therapy, which doctors hope will one day replace electro-shock therapy as the gold-standard remedy for treatment-resistant depression.

Magnetic seizure therapy could replace electroconvulsive therapy as the gold-standard treatment

National clinical trials are beginning to use magnetic seizure therapy to treat treatment-resistant depression as a result of bipolar disorder. (Peerayot/Shutterstock)

Patients in London, Ont., will be part of a groundbreaking national clinical trial of magnetic seizure therapy, which doctors hope will one day replace electro-shock therapy as the gold-standard remedy for treatment-resistant depression. 

The clinical trial will also involve patients in Toronto, Ont., and Vancouver, BC. 

The national clinical study is the first randomized controlled trial to look at the efficacy of magnetic seizure therapy (MST), which uses a magnetic field as opposed to electricity to treat severe depression associated with bipolar disorder.

"Magnetic seizure therapy has already been shown as a promising treatment for major depressive disorder or unipolar depression," said Dr. Amer Burhan, a researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute and a neuropsychiatrist at St. Joseph's Health Care London. 

'More focused seizure'

"For the first time, we're studying how effective the treatment is for depression as a result of bipolar disorder and whether it can reduce the risk of cognitive side effects associated with electroconvulsive therapy." 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electro-shock therapy, induces seizures that provide a therapeutic benefit for treatment-resistant depression. But there is stigma surrounding its use, and it includes side effects such as disorientation and amnesia.

MST induces a more focused seizure, which reduces the risk of side effects, Burhan said. 

Patients in London, Ont., will participate in the trial at Parkwood Institute. They will be randomized to get either ECT or MST. They'll be given MST under anesthesia in 12 to 20 sessions which will last 10 to 15 minutes each. 

"Magnetic seizure therapy holds promise of one day replacing electrovovulsive therapy as the gold standard for treatment-resistant depression," Burhan said.