Pros and Cons of TMS Therapy – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Depression is common. More than 14 million American adults suffer from depression. Only a fraction of individuals suffering from depression seek treatment. Of those who do, greater than 30% fail to achieve satisfactory improvement. Not all patients improve when treated with medications or psychotherapy. Up to 25% of people suffering from depression will not respond to multiple trials of medication due to a lack of efficacy or difficulty tolerating medication. Likewise, many people struggle to respond to the best efforts of psychotherapy, either due to a lack of response or a lack of time and/or financial resources that are necessary for psychotherapy interventions. Alternate treatment modalities are critical to addressing the ongoing needs of patients who suffer from the debilitating effects of depression.

Understanding the Benefits of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Depression has been linked to an abnormal function of nerve cells in a specific part of the brain. Highly focused magnetic field pulses used in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy gently stimulate these nerve cells. Evidence shows that TMS is effective in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in patients with a history of treatment resistance. New data emerging from recent studies suggests that in most patients, the clinical benefits of TMS were maintained through 12 months.

How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Works

TMS is a non-invasive, localized treatment conducted using a device that delivers rapidly pulsating and localized magnetic fields that activate a subset of nerve cells in the front part of the brain. While treatment is administered, patients remain awake while sitting in a comfortable reclining chair. A treatment coil is applied to the head and the system generates highly concentrated magnetic field pulses.  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation  is delivered in a series of 37-minute outpatient treatments, typically administered daily, (5 days per week) for 4 to 6 weeks.

Pros of TMS Therapy

  • Does not require anesthesia, non-invasive, well tolerated.
  • An outpatient service and patient continues normal daily routines.
  • Current data demonstrates efficacy in patients who have struggled

with medication.

  • May be good alternative for patients who responded to ECT in past.
  • No significant memory impairment.
  • FDA Approved in 2008 for the treatment of depression.

Cons of TMS Therapy

  • Facial twitching during the treatment.
  • Skin redness at site of coil placement.
  • Anxiety before and during treatment.
  • Mild discomfort (usually dissipates by end of first treatment).
  • Headache.
  • Process for insurance coverage can be cumbersome.
  • Time required 30 treatments over 6 weeks.