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Testing a new approach to treating severe depression

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A study at the University of Pennsylvania is evaluating if a surgical procedure could help people who are suffering from severe depression. The University is one of five locations nation-wide where a treatment called “Deep Brain Stimulation” or DBS is studied for its effectiveness with treatment-resistant depression. Today doctors performed one of the first surgeries for the study.


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Deep Brain Stimulation has been used successfully in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and could provide relief for people with severe depression. UPenn psychiatrist Dr. John O’Reardon says during the surgery, electrodes are placed deep within the brain to stimulate areas that don’t function correctly:

O’Reardon: We know from imaging what parts of the circuit are on strike so to speak, have gone offline, and they need a medical intervention to try and break the stranglehold of depression.

O’Reardon says in preliminary studies, about 60 percent of patients showed improvement after receiving DBS for their depression.
Tara Alliotta underwent the surgery today. She has suffered from depression for almost 40 years, and says she has exhausted all other options:

Aliotta: I think this is my only chance I have left, really.

This is the first large-scale study of using this method to treat depression.


  • Tara says:

    My DBS surgery was on 5/4/09.It has been extemely difficult to continue on.
    If it wasn’t for Dr. O’Reardon and his exceptional staff I don’t believe I would still be alive. This depression is a demon
    that wreaks havoc with your life,
    I have no guarantee I will get better and I don’t believe I could continue with this
    My Doctor doesn’t give up,He always has
    a plan.
    Regardless of the outcome, I have had
    exceptional Medical treatment and support.
    They are still trying different settings
    and working with the Meds.
    I don’t regret my decision to have DBS nd would encourage others that are aware of the pain to choose this option. Thank you all for
    the good wishes. I pray for relief for all of us.

  • Denise Chaplin says:

    Please keep this issue in the forefront. Those suffering from depression also face social stigma and discrimination by the insurance companies. It IS a physiological condition and needs to be respected and treated as such.

    Thank you.


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