All individuals received typical antidepressant treatment, but half also received the implanted nerve stimulator, attached to the body’s vagus nerve.
According to the researchers, patients with the combined typical treatment plus implanted stimulator reported a significantly better quality of life compared to the typical-only group, with improvements starting as early as three months in and lasting as long as five years.
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Such quality of life improvements, measured both by patient surveys and scientifically-proven clinician-reported analyses, included better social interactions, work habits, plus “overall well-being, improvement in perceived ability to function, household activities, and leisure activities,” according to the study.
Some limitations of the research, according to the authors, include the fact that patients and treating clinicians knew whether they were receiving the typical-only treatment or the combined treatment. There were also some dropouts in the fourth and fifth year of the study, but the 50 percent reduction in depressive symptoms would not be affected by that dropout.
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But in conclusion, the researchers said the adjunctive treatment with the implanted pacemaker-like vagus nerve device resulted in greater improvements in quality of life compared to how major depression is typically treated, especially in individuals considered most resistant to antidepressants.
They hope the findings will encourage health insurance companies to offer the devices and implant surgery, considering most, including Medicare, rarely cover them.
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Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the U.S. have risen by about 33 percent. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
The country also experienced a nearly 30 percent increase in suicide rates between 1999-2016, according to a recent report from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.
Georgia in particular experienced a 16.2 percent increase in suicide rates, comparatively low compared with the 25 states where suicide rates rose by nearly 30 percent. But the figure is still considered a significant increase, according to the CDC.
Read the full study at psychiatrist.com.