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Efficacy and Safety of Theta Burst vs Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Depression: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

OBJECTIVES: Theta burst stimulation (TBS) is more energy- and time-efficient than is standard repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). However, further studies are needed to analyze TBS therapy for its efficacy and safety compared with standard rTMS in treating depression. The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare TBS therapy with standard rTMS treatment regarding their safety and therapeutic effect on individuals with depression.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Six data bases (Wanfang, the China National Knowledge Infrastructure, PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO) were searched from inception till December 20, 2022. Two independent reviewers selected potentially relevant studies on the basis of the inclusion criteria, extracted data, and evaluated the methodologic quality of the eligible trials using the modified ten-item Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale per Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines. Finally, ten comparable pairs of nine randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included for meta-analysis. Summary odds ratios (ORs) of the rates of response, remission, and adverse events were simultaneously calculated using quality-effects (QE) and random-effects (RE) models. Changes in depression scores associated with antidepressant effects were expressed using standardized mean differences simultaneously. This study was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42022376790).

RESULTS: Nine of the 602 RCTs, covering 1124 patients (616 who had TBS protocols applied vs 508 treated using standard rTMS), were included. Differences in response rates between the above two treatment modalities were not significant (OR = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.88-1.16, p = 0.44, I2  = 0%, RE model; OR = 1.07, 95% CI: 0.87-1.32, p = 0.44, I2  = 0%, QE model). Differences in adverse event rates between TBS and standard rTMS groups were not statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS: TBS has similar efficacy and safety to standard rTMS for treating depression. Considering the short duration of daily stimulation sessions, this meta-analysis supports the continued development of TBS for treating depression.

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