Magnetic seizure therapy may help reduce suicidal thoughts in bipolar disorder

Magnetic seizure therapy may help reduce suicidal thoughts in bipolar disorder

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines bipolar disorder as a maniac depressive disorder characterized by periods of intense depression followed by an excessively happy or elevated mood known as a maniac period. Bipolar disorder is a severe mental condition which is debilitating and also lasts a lifetime.

Scientists and researchers have been working diligently to look for a cure for bipolar disorder. Despite several medical advances, people suffering from severe bipolar disorder are susceptible to suicidal ideation. Fortunately, a recent study has suggested that magnetic seizure therapy (MST), a new form of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), may prove effective in treating suicidal thoughts and depression in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

ECT effective for treatment resistant cases

It was found that the remission and response rates with MST were specifically stronger for suicidality, thereby producing reduced or clinically substantial reactions sooner for suicidal tendencies than it did for depression. MST also seemed to have compassionate effect on cognitive function than the traditional electroconvulsive therapy.

Speaking to Medscape Medical News, lead author Dr. Victor Tang, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), University of Toronto, Canada, said that it was already known that electroconvulsive therapy was effective in treating suicidality and major depression, hence working in MST was exciting as the chances of achieving results were immense. He said that ECT was the best form of antidepressant in the present times and was one of the best forms of alternate treatment available in case the patients are treatment resistant to medication and conventional forms of therapies.

Advantages of MST

Electroconvulsive therapy works by applying electrical stimulation through the skull and the scalp. As the structure of the human skull is hard, the intensity of the electrical energy has to be increased in order to pass through. Due to the increase in the intensity, the electrical energy ultimately affects the entire brain instead of the intended area only.

The advantage of using MST is that it can pass through the skull and can be used to stimulate a detailed area of the human brain. Dr. Tang confirmed that even though ECT and MST both produced generalized seizures, MST could be used to concentrate the energy on a particular area of the human brain. For example, it can be directed only at the cortex avoiding complex areas such as the hippocampus which is responsible for cognitive functions and memory.

Procedure of the study

The researchers identified 26 patients with treatment resistant bipolar disorder and baseline suicidal ideation for the study. They were administered 24 MST treatments which included both the frontal and vertex position. The acceptable trail of MST was fixed at 8 treatment sessions while the full course was fixed at 24-week sessions or remission, whichever came first.

The 24-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-24) which reports suicidal intent and Scale for Suicidal Ideation (SSI) were used to measure remission or reaction to treatment. The study findings demonstrated that the response rate was better than the remission rate. In the case of those who completed the trial 8 MST treatment sessions, the response rate was 38.5 percent compared to the remission rate of 23.1 percent. Moreover, for those people, who completed the entire protocol of treatment, the response rate was 50 percent whereas the remission rate was 30 percent.

Further, 47 percent remission was seen in SSI scores, in those who completed the trial 8 MST sessions, and 57 percent remission was seen in those who completed the entire treatment protocol. The researchers concluded that around 11 MST sessions were needed for remission from suicidal ideation and approximately 17 sessions were required for the individual to show response to treatment-resistant depression.

Presenting the findings of the study at the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology’s (ASCP) 2019 annual meeting, Dr. Lang said that his group of researchers was hopeful that MST turns out to be effective with fewer side effects. He further added that MST might prove to be a popular alternate treatment option because of the fear and stigma associated with ECT.

Treatment for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed though the use of long-term therapy, medications, or with a combination of both, depending on the severity and time duration of the disorder manifestation. However, professional help from a certified bipolar treatment center is needed to access this kind of support.

Treatment for mental health disorders are available at various reputed and licensed treatment centers across the country. If you or a loved one is battling mental health disorders and is looking for licensed mental health treatment centers or residential mental health treatment, get in touch with the California Mental Health Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-559-9323 and speak to a member of our team. You can also chat online to a representative for further assistance.