Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a systematic review and pairwise/network meta-analysis

Sophie M. D. D. Fitzsimmons*, Ysbrand D. van der Werf, A. Dilene van Campen, Martijn Arns, Alexander T. Sack, Adriaan W. Hoogendoorn, Tetro Consortium, Odile A. van den Heuvel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

11 Citations (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: We evaluated the efficacy and safety of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and ranked the relative efficacy of different stimulation protocols.

METHODS: We performed a search for randomised, sham-controlled trials of rTMS for OCD. The primary analysis included both a pairwise meta-analysis and a series of frequentist network meta-analyses (NMA) of OCD symptom severity. Secondary analyses were carried out on relevant clinical factors and safety.

RESULTS: 21 studies involving 662 patients were included. The pairwise meta-analysis showed that rTMS for OCD is efficacious across all protocols (Hedges' g=-0.502 [95%CI= -0.708, -0.296]). The first NMA, with stimulation protocols clustered only by anatomical location, showed that both dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) stimulation and medial frontal cortex stimulation were efficacious. In the second NMA, considering each unique combination of frequency and location separately, low frequency (LF) pre-supplementary motor area (preSMA) stimulation, high frequency (HF) bilateral dlPFC stimulation, and LF right dlPFC stimulation were all efficacious . LF right dlPFC was ranked highest in terms of efficacy, although the corresponding confidence intervals overlapped with the other two protocols.

LIMITATIONS: Evidence base included mostly small studies, with only a few studies using similar protocols, giving a sparse network. Studies were heterogeneous, and a risk of publication bias was found.

CONCLUSIONS: rTMS for OCD was efficacious compared with sham stimulation. LF right dlPFC, HF bilateral dlPFC and LF preSMA stimulation were all efficacious protocols with significant and comparable clinical improvements. Future studies should further investigate the relative merits of these three protocols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-312
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date15 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Network meta -analysis
  • OCD
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • RTMS
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation

Cite this