Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size

Nerve Stimulator Appears Effective in Treatment-Resistant Depression

WebMD Health News

Dec. 15, 1999 (Cleveland) -- An implantable device that is about the size of a stopwatch may put a stop to depression in patients who have failed treatment with antidepressants or shock therapy. Depression affects about 18 million Americans, but about 1 million of those people have severe treatment-resistant depression that lasts for years and is a disabling condition.

The experimental treatment works by way of a generator implanted in the chest. Wires attach the device to the vagus nerve, which runs from the neck into a brain region believed to be important for regulating mood. The generator then sends tiny electric shocks to the nerve.

The treatment, called a vagus nerve stimulator, is already FDA-approved for severe epilepsy. But the results of a multi-center study on its effect on depression were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Acapulco earlier this week and published online Wednesday by Biological Psychiatry.

"Typically the surgery is done as an outpatient procedure that takes about an hour or two," says lead researcher A. John Rush, MD.

Rush, vice chairman for research in the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, tells WebMD that 40% of the 30 patients enrolled in the open treatment trial had at least a 50% improvement in their depression at the end of an eight-week course of treatment.

Rush says, "We have followed some of these patients for 10 months now, and we can report that those who responded during the early phase have held the response, and some patients who didn't respond during the eight-week trial responded later. So the long-term results are actually slightly more optimistic than the eight-week results that were reported in this paper."

The results are particularly compelling given the severity of depression, he says. "Twenty-one patients had major depressive disorder and nine were bipolar [formerly known as manic depressive]," he says. More than half of the patients had received ECT-- the so-called electro-shock therapy -- and all the patients failed to respond to at least two robust antidepressant medication trials.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
jk rowling
Famous people who've struggled with persistent sadness.
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
jk rowling
Pills with smiley faces
Teen girl huddled outside house
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
antidepressants slideshow
pill bottle
Winding path