rTMS: Treating Depression Without Medication

TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Therapy is a treatment developed by Neurostar, a Philadelphia based company. This is an FDA approved therapy for the treatment of clinical depression. It is non-systemic (does NOT involve medications that circulate in the bloodstream) and non-invasive (does NOT involve surgery).

rTMS Therapy is the first and only non-systemic and non-invasive depression treatment cleared by the FDA. I have put together some basic information about this therapy to help familiarize you with it. Please feel free to contact me should you have any interest, questions or concerns. 

Candidates for TMS therapy are typically adults who have failed to achieve satisfactory improvement from one prior antidepressant medication at or above the minimal effective dose and duration in the current episode. Patients who are unable to tolerate antidepressant medications are good candidates. Given the very real fears and frustrations involving antidepressant medication use, this option for treatment offers hope to many amongst us who continue to suffer the direct and indirect consequences of depression. 

A natural response is to question if this treatment is a hoax. Absolutely not. TMS therapy is scientifically substantiated and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration since October 2008. At least 8 out of the top 10 nationally renowned psychiatric hospitals have implemented TMS therapy as a viable treatment option. 

Clinical trials thus far have been extremely promising and support the following:

  • 50% of patients experience significantly reduced symptoms
  • 33% of patients report complete recovery

TMS therapy works at the level of neurons [brain cells] and is a form of neuromodulation. It uses a device that delivers highly focused MRI-strength magnetic pulses to stimulate the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the  brain that regulates mood. A headpiece is placed against the scalp, which then sparks a small arc of electromagnetic activity within the brain, targeting a specific area. This in turn sets off chemical changes in the prefrontal cortex. Neurons in the prefrontal cortex are then stimulated to make more mood-enhancing chemicals such as Serotonin. 

Patients often wonder what they can expect to experience during the procedure. On average, each treatment session lasts 37 minutes, with 30 sessions scheduled over a 4-6 week period. TMS therapy does not require anesthesia or sedation. During the session, the patient remains alert and free to watch TV, converse or listen to music. They are able to drive themselves to and from the appointment, and return directly to work.

Unlike psychotropic drugs [weight gain, metabolic changes, dyslipidemias, sexual dysfunction] or ECT, the side-effects associated with TMS therapy are relatively mild and typically resolve within the first week of treatment. They are listed as follows:

  • Headaches
  • Scalp discomfort 

Please contact our office to schedule a consultation for you or a loved on suffering from depression. We are committed to making a positive difference in your lives.