Swedish Hospital First To Use New Depression Implant

Swedish Hospital First To Use New Depression Implant
SEATTLE - "I wake up in the morning and as I'm coming awake I think, 'Oh, I'm still alive. I have another day to face," said one woman who didn't want to be identified, so we'll call her "Marsha."

She suffers from severe depression.

"Simple things like taking a shower everyday, or grocery shopping are just immensely overwhelming," she said.

Marsha's had these feelings for over 20 years and even tried to commit suicide. She says she's tried about a hundred different medications, and even shock therapy. But nothing's worked.

Now she's putting her hope into a new treatment.

Dr. David Dunner heads the UW's Center for Anxiety and Depression. He's conducted studies of the latest breakthrough, called the Vagus Nerve Stimulator.

It's a stopwatch-sized battery that sends impulses to the vagus nerve in the brain.

"It does produce signals that affect chemicals in the brain like seratonin and norpanephrine, chemicals that we think are important to depression," Dr. Dunner said.

At Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Marsha is the first patient to get the implant since the FDA approved it.

Doctors place it between the left collar bone and breast bone. There's a second incision in the neck where the wires run to the nerve.

But there can be side effects.

"They can become hoarse while they are talking and they can have some neck pain while the current is on," Dr. Dunner said. "And some people could have some shortness of breath."

It can take up to a year before patients see results and they must continue other therapies, but marsha says it's worth it.

"Anything has got to be better than where I am now," Marsha said.

Dr. Dunner says more than half of the patients see very little results or no results at all. Only patients that have had four or more other therapies without success can qualify for the device.