Nerve stimulator may help depressed patients feel normal

The device helped patients even if it did not fully relieve symptoms of depression, researchers found.

An implanted nerve stimulator may help patients with the most severe depression get some of their day-to-day lives back, even if it doesn’t fully relieve their symptoms, doctors reported Tuesday.

Patients who have been using the vagus nerve stimulator say they have regained significant quality of life, and the improvements have lasted for as long as five years, the team reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

They hope that their findings will help encourage health insurance companies to pay for the pacemaker-like devices and the surgery needed to implant them. Although the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the devices for depression in 2005, health insurance companies, including Medicare, rarely pay for them.

The improvements were enough to help people work, socialize and interact with their families better, said Dr. Charles Conway of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who led the study team.

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