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Clinical trial testing Deep Brain Stimulation as treatment for severe depression

DBS is a procedure commonly used to treat tremors associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

HOUSTON — Doctors hope Deep Brain Stimulation will be a new treatment option for people with severe, treatment-resistant depression.

Dr. Sharon Wager started experiencing bouts of depression as a teenager. She survived childhood abuse and more than her share of heartbreak, but she said it was depression that took away her will to live.

“It’s just really clear to me that I have no value or worth. I just have to die. In spite of people telling me otherwise, it doesn’t matter. It’s just what I think,” Wager said.

She tried every treatment option available, but nothing worked. That’s why she qualified for a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) clinical trial at UTHealth.

We have FDA approval for up to 20 patients now. We have enrolled 11 patients so far,” said Albert Fenoy, MD., a neurosurgeon with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

DBS is a procedure commonly used to treat tremors associated with Parkinson’s Disease. For the depression trial, doctors implant electrodes to part of the brain that affects mood regulation while the patient is awake.

“Seventy-five percent of our patients have been successful. If you look at eight patients who have finished the trial, six of them have been responders,” Dr. Fenoy said.

Researchers follow patients for five years after surgery.

“We gave hope to these patients, and the patients gave us hope as well that we can do better and find better treatments for them,” said Joao de Quevedo, M.D. PhD, psychiatrist/scientist at McGovern Medical School and UT Physicians.

Wager got the experimental treatment a few years ago. Now she’s back at work as a doctor treating geriatric patients.

“It changes your life. You won’t think those thoughts you were thinking before. They’re not there. They’re just gone. You’re free to actually live your life,” Wager said.

UTHealth is still accepting patients into the clinical trial. Those suffering from treatment-resistant depression can contact (713) 486-2523.


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