Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS is a relatively new therapy method. Its side effects are relatively unexplored as are the treatment’s safe boundaries. However, it has already been determined that tissue damage is unlikely to occur, but the therapy can have some adverse side effects. Further studies in rTMS and TMS therapy need to be conducted to understand its long term effects.
Alternate Depression Therapy
As an alternative therapy for depression, rTMS has its own benefits. These include:
- It is an FDA approved the non-invasive therapy for treating depression
- It’s a simple procedure that doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia
- TMS is a proven and effective therapy for patients who don’t respond to antidepressant medications
- As a non-invasive method, TMS does not induce weight gain, nausea, dry mouth or sexual dysfunction
- According to several studies, TMS showed positive results compared to antidepressant medications
- Fewer hospitalizations and doctor visits compared to antidepressants medications
- It’s the only proven treatment for patients who have failed on previous antidepressant treatments
- Patients have a 50% more chance of recovering from depression even if they respond poorly from other conventional therapy
The Side Effects of TMS
Since TMS machines functions like an MRI, it can cause damage to metal and other magnet-sensitive materials. TMS is not advisable for patients who have metallic implants in their bodies.
Examples of these metallic materials include:
- Hearing implants
- Aneurysm coils or clips
- Neck stents
- Bullet fragments
- Implanted stimulators or electrodes
Failure to inform doctors of such implants or conditions could result in serious injury or death.
It is mandatory for doctors to take cautionary measures before undertaking TMS treatment. They need to screen patients for these conditions:
- Any removable or wearable devices that might be sensitive to magnetic fields
- Metallic implants
- Electrodes used to monitor brain activity
- Deep brain stimulators
- Stents in the neck or brain
- Other metal devices or object implanted in the body particularly in the near the head
The side effects of TMS are mainly the discomfort of the scalp. Other common side effects of TMS include:
- Neck Pain
Other Known Effects of TMS
Prescription drugs can impede the efficacy of TMS. Patients taking any medication should inform their doctors. Known effects of drugs when undergoing TMS include:
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears for patients taking bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Antipsychotic medications and tricyclic antidepressants increase the risk of seizures
TMS as an Alternative Antidepressant Therapy
TMS therapy is proven to be safe and effective alternate treatment option for patients suffering from depression. Even patients who failed on their previous antidepressant treatments can still recover from depression using TMS therapy.
Even the FDA has approved this new method in stimulating the brain as a non-invasive treatment for depression. The therapy can still produce minor scalp discomfort or headaches at the treatment area. Still, TMS therapy hasn’t shown to generate other major health problems. The discomfort is a temporary issue ranging from mild to moderate and usually only lasts during the first week of treatment. Still, some patients report that it disappears after the first week.