Alternative Treatment for Depression: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
BY BRETT WILIAMSON
For people with depression, treatment can come in many forms and combinations, including talk therapy, prescription antidepressant medication and lifestyle changes. A newer treatment for individuals diagnosed with depression that can be used alone or with those treatments is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
“TMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression,” says Edward Norris, MD, with LVPG Adult Psychiatry–Muhlenberg. Norris, along with the care team at LVPG Adult and Pediatric Psychiatry–Muhlenberg, have offered TMS to patients for the past two years.
“This unique therapy is especially helpful for people who have not benefited from or cannot tolerate antidepressant medications,” he says.
TMS is delivered in an office setting Monday through Friday. The patient is seated in a spa-like chair while a technician provides treatment. During the treatment session, the patient can listen to music or watch TV. A complete course of treatment is comprised of 36 sessions, each lasting an average of 20 minutes.
TMS benefits include:
- Safe and well-tolerated
- No interruption in daily activities
- No anesthesia
- Few or no side effects
- Patients do not have to stop medications during treatment
- Covered by most major insurances including Medicare
“Our patients have reported improvement in depressive symptoms as early as the first week. However, the majority of individuals have reported improvement between sessions 20 and 30,” Norris says.
One study of the long-term benefits of TMS has reported 62.5 percent of the patients studied showed remission, or no symptoms of depression, even one year after initial treatment.1