Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

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We are excited to offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as part of our practice options. TMS is a proven nonpharmacological treatment for refractory depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and evidence is increasing for its benefit for many other disorders as well! TMS is safe, FDA-approved, and very well tolerated.

What is TMS?

TMS uses the same type of magnetic energy found in MRI machines. Using an FDA-approved TMS device, we apply this magnetic energy to specific areas of the brain, depending on the disorder we are treating. The typical treatment takes only a few minutes and requires no anesthesia or needles. The treatment must be repeated for several consecutive days to be effective, so it does require frequent visits to our office during the treatment course. We believe that the repetitive stimulation of targeted brain areas with magnetic energy helps correct abnormal brain function responsible for the underlying problem.

Benefits of TMS

TMS is mostly used currently for refractory depression. For patients who have failed several medication trials and psychotherapy, TMS can be effective up to 70% of the time, and it can often completely erase the depression! In addition, the improvement can be sustained in most patients for at least a year. We began to offer TMS in 2020 and have seen the effects last for 3 years and counting in some patients.

Who is it for?

TMS can be expensive, but it is covered by almost all insurances for certain situations. Typically, for depression, an insurance company will cover the cost if a patient has documented failure of a certain number of medication trials and psychotherapy. However, because TMS is so safe, it can certainly be considered earlier as a treatment option, if a patient so desires and does not require insurance coverage for care.

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Abbie shares her experience with our TMS program

Our TMS Process

Please call our office if you are interested in learning more about TMS. How we proceed may depend upon whether you are currently under psychiatric care elsewhere. We typically start with an initial psychiatric consultation to help determine if TMS is a reasonable option for your care. Certain conditions may prevent us from considering TMS due to safety concerns, such as having metal implants in or near your head region or if you have a seizure disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

There have been no long-term problems identified with TMS whatsoever. It has proven to be a very safe procedure. It has no negative effects on memory or other cognitive functions.

Treatment decisions will be made with your mental health team. Many factors will be considered, but generally, it is best not to make major changes in medication just before or during TMS.

The repetitive, daily aspect of treatment is vital for TMS to be effective. Fortunately, treatments are short, generally under 30 minutes per day, and there are no treatments on weekends. It is okay if you have to occasionally skip a day for illness or other reasons.

Many patients begin to feel better within 3 weeks, although some do not start to improve until the last 10 to 15 treatments.

So far, studies have shown that most people who respond, continue to stay improved for at least 12 months. In our practice, there have been patients who remain improved after 3 years from their treatment end date. However, we have had a few patients who relapsed in 6 months but then responded to another treatment course.

For most patients, TMS causes no significant discomfort. A tapping or pecking sensation is common underneath where the magnet is placed on the skull. If the treatment does cause some pain or discomfort, adjustments can be done to make the treatment more tolerable. It is very unusual for treatment to be discontinued due to discomfort.

No! TMS requires no anesthesia or sedation. You can drive yourself to and from treatments, return to work, or resume any of your other activities.

ECT involves electrical stimulation of the brain, which induces a seizure in a controlled fashion.  Patients need anesthesia, with airway support, and their muscles paralyzed to avoid injury from the seizure movements. That being said, it is still the most effective treatment for severe depression.  For most patients, TMS is a wonderful alternative, as it is safer, with no lasting side effects, and has been proven to be more effective than medication in patients who have failed several of medication trials.

Patient Feedback

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Becky A. Sittason

Before TMS, I was constantly fighting back tears and feeling that I couldn’t continue living with such persistent sadness. Thankfully, I didn’t give up and was eager to try TMS as soon as I learned about it. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I started feeling better. TMS brought me life changing relief.