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Effective Health Care Program

Nonpharmacologic Interventions for Treatment-Resistant Depression in Adults

Systematic Review

Partly out of date: This report was assessed in April 2016 and some conclusions may not be current.

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This review from the RTI International–University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) provides a comprehensive summary of the available data addressing the comparative effectiveness of four nonpharmacologic treatments as therapies for patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD): electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy (CBT or IPT).

The core patient population of interest was patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who met our definition of TRD: failure to respond following two or more adequate antidepressant treatments. We also included TRD studies in which the patient population could include a "mix" of up to 20 percent of patients with bipolar disorder (i.e., 80 percent or more of patients had only MDD), assuming that this small mix would not substantially alter outcomes seen with MDD-only populations.