FAQ: TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Therapy

TMS therapy is an innovative depression treatment technique that can be effective for patients who are not seeing impactful results from psychotherapy or antidepressants alone. It is a safe and effective option for depression that can be used alone or in combination with your other depression management protocols. 

 

The goal of TMS is to stimulate the root cause of mood disorders like depression, which are often thought to be based on a disconnect of the brain's messaging system. Some patients do not respond well to typical antidepressant treatment for depression. For these patients, TMS is a good option to try.

TMS works by using electrical impulses to stimulate neurons in the brain. A clinician delivers electric currents through a coil, which acts as the magnetic field generator. This generated magnetic field initiates an electrical current in the brain. 

 

TMS attacks the actual neurons, directly targeting the brain's networks that are assumed to be sluggish in depression patients. By targeting the brain directly, TMS works differently than an antidepressant oral medication.

 

Whereas most antidepressant medications target increasing serotonin production in the brain, TMS directly targets what many believe to be the root cause of depression - the neural highway. By strengthening the brain's network (which is responsible for regulating thoughts, behaviors, and emotions) through electrical impulses,TMS improves depression symptoms caused by a breakdown in neurotransmitter communication.

TMS is administered by your care provider as an outpatient procedure. BasePoint Psychiatry and Wellness’s office offers a welcoming setting for our patients to receive their TMS treatments. 

 

During TMS, your care provider will apply magnetic pulses to the scalp through a metal coil in order to reach the brain's neurotransmitters or messaging system. These pulses are delivered noninvasively. 

 

These treatments take place in a warm outpatient setting over the course of a few weeks. You will sit in a comfortable chair as you receive your treatment. Patients can reap the benefits of TMS therapy from the comfort of our comfortable office space, performed by their trusted care provider. Treatments are progressive and they take place over the course of a few weeks.

Though the biology of why TMS therapy works isn't yet completely understood, the stimulation appears to be effective at minimizing depression symptoms and improving moods.

 

The pulses are essentially nudging the brain and encouraging positive brain activity to reconnect these networks. The theory is that this will then help to create long-term relief from depression and often other mood disorders.

 

Most patients report improvement with their depression as well as symptoms associated with anxiety, PTSD, sleep, attention, and cognition. Some studies show a 75% improvement rate of depression symptoms by patients taking TMS therapy.

TMS therapy works very quickly compared to an antidepressant protocol. Many patients report changes in mood and depression symptoms as early as their first week of treatment. Antidepressants can take up to six weeks to provide symptom relief. 

Additionally, unlike antidepressants, TMS is not something you'll need daily to achieve recovery. Many patients do not need to repeat treatment for up to five years.

BasePoint Psychiatry and Wellness works hard to make your TMS session experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. When you arrive for your TMS therapy session, you’ll be greeted by our friendly care team.  You’ll be asked to remove any magnetic-sensitive objects (such as jewelry and credit cards). During sessions, you’ll recline in a comfortable chair with a small magnetic coil resting lightly on your scalp near your forehead. 

 

The experience will be relaxing. You may be asked to wear earplugs during treatment for your comfort and hearing protection, as rTMS produces a loud clicking sound much like an MRI machine. You can listen to music during your treatment. A session will last approximately thirty minutes. When you are finished, you may immediately drive yourself home.

Side effects are generally mild to moderate and improve shortly after an individual session. They are typically the most intense after your first treatment and decrease over time with additional sessions as your body adapts to the treatment. Common side effects of TMS stimulation are related to discomfort on the scalp, and about one-third of patients experience them. 

 

TMS has not been associated with many of the side-effects caused by antidepressant medications, such as gastrointestinal upset, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, or sedation. This discomfort should go away after the TMS session. 

 

According to Mayo Clinic, side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation
  • Tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rarely, someone might faint or have a seizure while undergoing stimulation Precautions are made to minimize this risk, and it is not common 

Patients with non-removable metal in their heads (excluding braces or dental fillings), should not receive TMS treatment. Metal in the head can cause the object to heat up, move, or malfunction, and result in serious injury or death. 

 

The following is a list of metal implants that can prevent a patient from receiving rTMS:

  • Stents in the neck or brain
  • Aneurysm clips or coils
  • Deep brain tissue stimulators
  • Electrodes to monitor brain activity
  • Metallic implants in ears, eyes and mouth
  • Bullet fragments shrapnel or any metal in or near the head
  • Facial tattoos with metallic or magnetic-sensitive ink
  • Other metal devices or object implanted in or near the head

No. You can continue to take your existing medications as you begin TMS therapy. Most patients maintain their antidepressants as they begin treatment. As you see results, you’ll work with your therapist to determine the best strategy going forward.

Yes, TMS therapy is covered by most insurance. We can assist you in tracking down this information. 

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