TMS therapy is a new and novel type of brain stimulation that treats depression using brief electromagnetic pulses (significantly weaker than those used in an MRI machine). These pulses pass through the skull easily and stimulate neurons in underactive regions of the brain thought to be responsible for depression. First approved in 2008, it is an effective form of treatment against drug resistant depression. TMS therapy has been demonstrated to be safe, well tolerated, and effective in numerous clinical trials and double-blind studies, with little to no side effects. Tens of millions of people around the world have received TMS therapy. Research shows it to be at least as effective as antidepressant medication. Close to 70% of patients receiving TMS therapy will feel some benefit and relief in depression symptoms – half of those patients will be in full remission after treatment.
No. But it might be mildly to moderately uncomfortable for the first few sessions as the patient gets used to it; comfort levels will vary patient to patient. In the great majority of patients, TMS is a well-tolerated and very safe procedure. Most people describe TMS as a mild tapping sensation where the stimulator coil is being applied. The sensation of the pulse may feel similar to a TENS unit.
Most patients report feeling positive benefits of TMS therapy even some years after their initial treatment. In most cases, effects can be felt up to a year. If needed, maintenance TMS therapy sessions can be done.
TMS treatment is generally covered by most major insurance plans after antidepressant medication and therapy. If you call us, we’re happy to help you determine if your insurance will cover this treatment.
TMS therapy is applied by a TMS device with a stimulating coil. The patient sits in a comfortable chair while the technician takes some measurements of the patient’s head. Once appropriate measurements have been made to determine optimal location of the coil placement, the technician then places the stimulating coil on the patient’s head and starts treatment. The treatment typically lasts from 10-20 minutes. This is conducted over a 6-week time frame of daily sessions. After each session the patient can drive home or back to work unassisted and can immediately resume normal daily activities.
TMS is a great option for patients whose depression, OCD or anxiety has a substantial negative impact on their lives and who have not gotten relief from therapy and multiple trials of antidepressants and/or other medications. TMS can also work for patients that have not been able to tolerate the side effects of antidepressants and/or other medications.
Yes, TMS has been proven safe in large clinical trials and is FDA approved for treatment of depression.
The most common side effect is mild scalp discomfort at the stimulation site during the first few treatments. Headaches have also been reported, though TMS does not increase the risk of migraines even in patients with a history of migraine headaches. The risk of a seizure induced by TMS is estimated at 1 in 30,000 treatments (0.003%) and precautions are taken to minimize that risk.
No, they are completely different treatments.
At your initial consultation, Dr. Albert will get the information needed to determine if you are a candidate for TMS and any information required by your insurance company to submit prior authorization forms.
There’s not a simple answer to this question. If your depression goes into complete remission after TMS, you may want to consider tapering off some or all of your antidepressant medication under the supervision of your doctor. However, as depression tends to reoccur over time, many patients choose to continue taking medication as a preventative measure.