NEW IMPLANT PROCEDURE MAY BE ANSWER FOR THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION
October 4, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2005
CONTACT: Suzanna Cisneros Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org
LUBBOCK – A device that was originally developed for epilepsy patients is now providing
hope for those who suffer from depression. The Federal Drug Administration recently
approved the use of a vagal nerve stimulator for patients suffering from depression.
According to the World Health Organization, depression is projected to become the
leading cause of disability and the second leading contributor to the global burden
of disease by the year 2020. Depression is common, affecting about 340 million people
worldwide. Yet fewer than 25 percent of those affected receive effective treatment.
Walter Lajara-Nanson, M.D., a neuropsychiatrist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences
Center, said depression has physical effects on both the body and the brain.
“If someone is clearly missing a limb most understand the need to treat the patient,
yet with depression there tends to be a stigma,” Lajara said. “It is important to
educate people that depression is an illness that must be treated, not a reflection
of mental weakness.”
A person suffering from depression that has not had success with traditional treatments
such as a combination of medications or counseling, is diagnosed as having Treatment
Resistant Depression. Larjara adds that four out of 10 patients will not respond to
medications or psychotherapy.
“There has not been any new treatment modality for depression in the last 70 years.
This implant is a new beginning for the future treatment of mental illness,” Lajara
The surgeon makes two small incisions on the patient’s neck. A pacemaker is implanted
in the left chest wall with the leadwire in the left vagal nerve. The vagal nerve
or the “wondering nerve” connects your brain stem with your upper body, specifically
a person’s lungs, heart and stomach. The nerve serves as conduit for relaying information
to and from your central nervous system, carrying electrochemical signals up its tubing
and depositing them directly into the patient’s cortex.
Lajara said the implant was originally used for implanting a small pacemaker into
the vagal nerves of epileptics to see if the pulses would stop the seizures. With
the study, researchers noticed many of the patients who suffered from depression improved.
Four trials were launched to see how the implants would work for depression, particularly
with those suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression.
“The patient receives stimulation every five minutes. The stimulant alters neurochemicals
in the brain related to depression. The side effects are minimal such as coughing,
discomfort in the neck, hoarseness when speaking. But overall, all are temporary,”
He added that in the last two decades there has been a biologic approach to studying
and treating depression and with the technological advances there is now an impact
on making treatment possible. Studies have shown that people continue to improve after
two years after the implant is placed.
Lajara said a person does not have to feel sad to suffer from depression. Symptoms
of depression also can include anhedonia, which is a lack of motivation or desire
to do things one enjoys, feelings of guilt over simple issues, insomnia or too much
sleep, fatigued or lack of energy, poor concentration or memory, changes in appetite,
crying spells, hopelessness, low self-esteem and thoughts or preoccupation with death.
“Ask your doctor questions if you think you may suffer from depression. Treatment
varies with each person. And if you suffer from Treatment Resistant Depression, technology
now has offered new hope for treatment,” Lajara said.