Focused Ultrasound Shows Promise for Treating Depression


Jin woo Chang 400Dr. Jin Woo Chang’s research group at Yonsei University College of Medicine collaborated with psychiatrist and neurosurgeon colleagues to publish a new study showing the successful use of focused ultrasound to treat depression.

In “Bilateral thermal capsulotomy with magnetic resonance‐guided focused ultrasound for patients with treatment‐resistant depression: A proof‐of‐concept study,” the group used Insightec’s Exablate Neuro device to perform bilateral thermal capsulotomy in four patients with treatment-resistant depression and then followed them for 12 months. All patients responded positively to the treatment without major complications.

“This is another important step along the path to treating certain patients with debilitating depression,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “We are proud to support Dr. Chang and this pioneering research.”

“The anterior capsule is a challenging target for focused ultrasound,” said Jin Woo Chang, MD, PhD. “But these positive early results motivate us to keep pursuing treatment for patients who need something more than antidepressants or electroconvulsive therapy.”

The patients in this study all experienced persistent, recurrent depression despite trying a minimum of three different categories of antidepressant medicines or electroconvulsive therapy. Their responses to the capsulotomy occurred within a week of the procedure, and no patient experienced procedure-related adverse effects. Along with undergoing neurological, neuropsychological, and structural MRI exams after treatment, patients were given the Hamilton Depression Scale and Beck Depression Inventory at baseline, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months after the procedure.

Larger studies are now needed, but Dr. Chang and his team have shown that bilateral focused ultrasound capsulotomy may be a safe and effective treatment modality for patients with treatment-resistant depression.

This trial was supported by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.

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