According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 350 million people or about 5% of the of the world’s population suffer from depression. The main treatments for patients suffering from this disorder are medicinal antidepressants and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, at least 50% of patients don’t respond positively to conventional treatment.
If these don’t provide any relief, it might be the right time to consider alternative forms of treatment. These alternate treatment methods involve therapy through brain stimulation. To date, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved two types of brain stimulation: TMS and ECT.
Both treatments involve specific areas in the brain which control mood behavior. The two offer hope to people who failed to succeed in antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. But their similarities end there. To better understand their differences, here are descriptions about the two.
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Definition of TMS and ECT
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a non-invasive method of stimulating brain nerve cells. This technique uses a coil that emits high-intensity magnetic pulses. Research has found that TMS can effectively treat medication-resistant depression. The response rates are 40% to 60% higher with remission rates of only 35% to 40%. The average treatment last between 4 and 6 weeks.
Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is also referred to as shock therapy. It involves sending an electric current into patients via attached electrodes. Health care professionals send out an intentional series of “generalized seizures”.
Doctors may recommend ECT for severe depression and suicidal patients. The procedure involves delivering intense but brief electrical pulses through the patient’s head.
Getting the Procedure
Usually, TMS therapy is done in an outpatient setting inside a doctor’s office. It is a simple procedure that does not require any sedation or anesthesia. Patients are fully awake and able to resume their daily routine as soon as the session ends.
Where TMS is a simple procedure, ECT is a bit more complicated. ECT treatment requires series of generalized seizures. Because patients are exposed to pain, they are given muscle relaxant and generalized anesthesia. Patients are also induced into deep sleep during their therapy sessions.
Patients have reported very little side effects while undergoing TMS therapy. The most common side effects of TMS include:
- Scalp soreness at the site of stimulation
- Spasms or twitching of facial muscles
The patient can immediately go back to their daily routine like driving and work upon session completion. There are no memory losses reported with TMS therapy.
Unfortunately, ECT has more reported side effects. These may require observation before a health care professional can clear a patient for discharge. These side effects include:
- Muscle aches
- Confusion following therapy
- Pain in the jaw
- Muscle soreness
- Memory loss
Patients often describe their short term memory loss as not remembering past events from previous months. Some reported to forget what they even ate that morning. This memory loss tends to dissipate over time.
Although ECT has been around longer, experts have found a safer and more effective depression treatment in TMS therapy. In any case, it is best to consult your physician on what will best work for your condition.