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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

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What is TMS Therapy?

TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) Therapy is an approved treatment by the FDA for patients suffering from depression who have not achieved satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medications. Using pulsed magnetic fields, TMS Therapy stimulates the part of the brain thought to be involved with mood regulation. TMS Therapy is:

  • Non-invasive, meaning that it does not involve surgery. It does not require any anesthesia or sedation.

  • Non-systemic, meaning that it is not taken by mouth and does not circulate in the bloodstream throughout the body.

The typical treatment course consists of 5 treatments per week over a 4-6 week period (20-30 treatments). Each treatment session lasts approximately 37 minutes.

How does TMS Work?

TMS is a short outpatient procedure performed right in our clinic. The treating clinician uses a treatment coil to send pulsed magnetic fields, similar in type and strength to those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, to the part of your brain thought to control mood.

TMS is a highly targeted treatment reaching 2-3 centimeters into the brain, directly beneath the treatment coil. The nature of the magnetic fields allows them to pass through a patient’s hair, skin and skull and into the mood-regulating area without being distorted in any way. This method allows for a very accurate type of stimulation, minimizing the stimulation of brain tissue not involved in mood.

These magnetic pulses produce very small electrical currents. The amount of electricity created in the brain is very small and cannot be felt by a patient. These small electric currents can cause the neurons (brain cells) to fire or become active and lead to the release of neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers).

Frequently Asked Questions

Is TMS a good alternative for patients who cannot tolerate the side effects associated with antidepressant medications?
TMS is non-systemic (does not circulate in the blood throughout the body), so it does not have side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, dry mouth, sedation, etc. The most common side effects reported during clinical trials were headache and scalp discomfort – generally mild to moderate – occurring less frequently after the first week of treatment.

TMS has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with depression who have failed to achieve satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medication. Like any treatment option, you and your doctor should work together to find the most appropriate treatment option for you.

Is TMS like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?
No, the two procedures are very different. While both are effective in the treatment of depression, there are many differences in safety and tolerability.

During the TMS Therapy procedure, patients sit in a chair and are awake and alert throughout the entire 37-minute procedure – no sedation is used with TMS Therapy. Patients can transport themselves to and from treatment.

In clinical trials, no seizures were observed. TMS was also shown to have no negative effects on memory function.

What are the potential risks of TMS therapy?
The most commonly reported side effect related to treatment is scalp discomfort during treatment sessions. This side effect was generally mild to moderate, and occurred less frequently after the first week of treatment. Less than 5% of patients treated with TMS discontinued treatment due to side effects in clinical trials.

In NeuroStar clinical trials, over 10,000 TMS treatments demonstrated its safety, with no occurrence of seizures. However, there is a small risk of a seizure occurring during treatment. This risk is no greater than what has been observed with oral antidepressant medications.

While TMS has been proven effective, not all patients will benefit from it. Patients should be carefully monitored for worsening symptoms, signs or symptoms of suicidal behavior, and/or unusual behavior. Families and caregivers should also be aware of the need to observe patients and notify their treatment provider if symptoms worsen.

Does TMS cause memory loss?
No. Clinical trials demonstrated that TMS does not result in any negative effects on memory or concentration.

Is TMS uncomfortable?
The most common side effect related to treatment is scalp discomfort during treatment sessions. This side effect is generally mild to moderate, and occurred less frequently after the first week of treatment.

If necessary, you can treat this discomfort with an over-the-counter analgesic. If these side effects persist, your doctor can temporarily reduce the strength of the magnetic field pulses being administered in order to make treatment more comfortable.


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