What is TMS?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is the first and only FDA-cleared treatment for depression that does not require surgery or medication and is safe and effective. Research is also showing TMS to be beneficial in helping those dealing with conditions such as Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, Addiction, ADHD, Eating Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Chronic Pain. While you relax in a chair, the TMS magnet gently sits on your head and sends low-dose magnetic pulses to the parts of the brain targeted for your particular condition.
The treatment is safe with none of the side effects associated with most anti-depressant medications. This means there is no weight gain, sexual dysfunction, sedation, stomach upset, or memory impairment. This is because the treatment is non-systemic. That is, the treatment is applied directly to the affected parts of the brain and does not have to work through the digestive and blood systems to get to where it needs to go.
Since TMS is a non-medication based treatment without all of the side effects of medication, this makes it the ideal treatment for people who may have struggled with side effects in the past or who may prefer to avoid medications in general. The most common side effect of TMS is a mild headache during the first couple of initial treatments that is generally well tolerated.
TMS treatments usually occur 5 days per week for 4-6 weeks. Each session lasts between 20 and 40 minutes. You are able to drive yourself to treatment and drive home. You can sit comfortable and read, watch TV or use a handheld electronic device during treatment.
How does TMS work?
Short pulses of magnetic energy are aimed at the structures in the brain thought to control mood (Limbic System Structures, many of which are involved in mood regulation). The left prefrontal cortex is used to access these structures non-invasively from outside the brain with TMS Therapy. The unique nature of magnetic fields allows them to pass through the skull and into the cortex without being distorted in any way. This facilitates a very focal type of stimulation, minimizing stimulation of brain tissue not involved in mood.
Once in the brain, these small magnetic pulses stimulate a small pathway in the prefrontal cotex and follow that pathway deeper into the brain into an area of the brain known as the Limbic System which controls mood and known to be less active in the brains of depressed patients.
The objective of TMS therapy is to stimulate conduction in neurons. Specifically, TMS targets the circuits of the brain that have been underactive during depression (the prefrontal circuit). Patients remain awake and alert during a TMS Therapy procedure.
The typical course of treatment consists of five sessions per week over a 4-6 week period for the treatment of depression. Treating other psychiatric disorders requires different protocols, which can range from 5-30 sessions. Most insurance companies have been willing to pay for TMS when used to treat depression, specifically treatment resistant forms of treatment.
How safe is TMS?
TMS Therapy is a safe procedure which utilizes a technology similar to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which has a long-term record of safety. TMS Therapy has been demonstrated to be safe in more than 100 clinical trials and has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) since 2008. This treatment has also been used in research and treatment across the globe for more than a decade. Treatment with TMS Therapy causes few if any side effects and is well tolerated by patients. The most common side effects are headaches and local discomfort, both usually temporary and mild. This pain exists only during the procedure and typically goes away after one to three treatments.
TMS Therapy uses strong magnets to create the energy to cause neurons in the brain to fire. These magnets are the same ones used in MRI’s, which has extensive safety data. In addition, TMS Therapy exposes the individual to only 1/30th the magnetic field of that of MRI’s.
TMS Therapy does not expose an individual to the same range of side effects that typical psychiatric medications potentially cause.
TMS Therapy does not cause
- Weight Gain
- Sexual Side Effects
- Gastro-intestinal Distress
Issues that would prohibit someone from receiving TMS
- Implanted metallic devices in the skull.
- Non-removable metallic objects in or around the head (some tattoos and permanent eye liner have metallic components in the dyes used)
- Implants controlled by physiological signals (Vagal Nerve Stimulators, Cardio-verter Defibrillators, Pacemakers)
Note: Metallic fillings and metal involved in dental work does not generally impact the ability to receive treatment.