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Exploring TMS Therapy

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a simple procedure that uses magnetic induction to stimulate brain cells. This non-invasive method can treat depression effectively as antidepressants or psychotherapy. Usually, doctors recommend TMS for people who haven’t responded well to or can’t tolerate antidepressants medication or psychotherapy.


How TMS Works

During TMS therapy, an electromagnetic coil is placed on the scalp near the front region of the head (the forehead). The electromagnetic pulses painlessly and stimulates the nerve cells in the brain concerned with mood control. When administered in rapid succession, it is referred to as rTMS or repetitive TMS.

Although studies about TMS haven’t yet fully explained the treatment’s effect in the brain, it lessens depression symptoms and improves the patient’s overall mood.  It’s commonly prescribed to people who can’t tolerate standard depression treatments.


Not Everyone Can Benefit from TMS Therapy

The machine acts like an MRI and reacts to any magnetic sensitive objects. People with a permanent metal implant can’t receive TMS therapy. TMS can cause those metal objects to move, heat up, malfunction. People who have the following cannot undergo TMS:

  •    Aneurysm coils
  •    Bullet fragments located near the head
  •    Deep brain stimulators
  •    Electrodes used to monitor brain activity
  •    Facial tattoos that have metallic ink
  •    Metallic implants
  •    Other metal devices or objects implanted in the body ,particularly in or near the head
  •    Stents in the neck or brain


Preparing for TMS Therapy

TMS physicians usually check the following before recommending TMS therapy to patients. These include the following:

  •    Psychiatric evaluation to assess the extent of depression
  •    Physical exams like laboratory test
  •    Patients with any medications including over-the-counter drugs and other supplements
  •    People who may have co-existing mental disorder
  •    Patients with a family history of seizures or epilepsy
  •    Any brain damage suffered from injury or other illnesses
  •    Severe episodes of headaches
  •    other medical conditions like drug addiction


Initial Procedure

As a non-invasive technique, TMS can be done inside a doctor’s office. It doesn’t require any medical procedures like anesthesia or the like. However, it is best to get a family member to assist the patient during the first therapy session, as they might not know how TMS affects them. Usually, TMS sessions are carried out on a daily basis about five times a week for one and a half months.


The Initial Treatment

Treatment usually lasts for under an hour and the doctor will need to determine the best spot to place the magnets. This can assure the best possible dose of stimulation in the brain. Even though it’s an effective alternative therapy, TMS may not work under the following conditions:

  •    Psychological problems that show signs of detachment from reality
  •    Depression that has lasted for several years
  •    Any Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the past that didn’t work as intended


Common Side Effects of TMS

Many experts consider using TMS as a safe form of alternative therapy. But, it can also trigger some health hazards like:

  •    Headaches
  •    Scalp soreness at the site of stimulation
  •    Spasms or twitching of facial muscles
  •    Lightheadedness


Serious side effects rarely happen but include:

  •    Seizures
  •    Mania in people with bipolar disorder
  •    Hearing loss if ears aren’t properly protected


Further studies regarding TMS therapy are needed to determine any potential long-term side effects.


Depression is a treatable mental disorder. Unfortunately, not everyone can benefit from traditional treatment methods. TMS therapy can help people recover from depression when other medications and therapies have failed.

This new therapy has showed positive results for patients suffering from ailments such as major depression, anxiety, migraines, autism and more. This has led many to ask about the long terms effects of TMS.  


TMS Therapy

In 2008, the FDA approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive method for stimulating brain activity and the regions of the brain associated with depression. The use of magnets and coils has proven to be a safe technique better than any other available treatments.


Lasting Effects of TMS Therapy

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, two-thirds of 120 patients who tried TMS therapy didn’t experience episodes of relapse during the year following treatment. The study concluded that TMS therapy can treat depression when all other paths of antidepressants and therapies haven’t worked.

Treatment can cost a lot lasting several weeks for a complete session, but worth it. TMS therapy is still cost-effective given how depression impacts the lives of the patients. It offers longer lasting benefits with almost no side effects and doesn’t require a host of potentially toxic medications.

TMS is considered to be a safe and relatively painless procedure. That being said, it can cause some discomfort associated with its side effects.


Common Side Effects of TMS

Side effects consist mainly of mild to moderate pain at the site of the stimulation. But will improve and decrease over time after the patient’s session. This may include the following:

  •    Headache
  •    Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation
  •    Tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles
  •    Lightheadedness
  •    Neck pain
  •    Seizure and syncope
  •    Ringing in the ears
  •    Nausea


Uncommon Effects of TMS therapy

Serious side effects in TMS therapy are rare. If they do occur, symptoms may include:

  •    Seizures
  •    Mania for people with bipolar disorder
  •    Hearing loss if there is not enough ear protection during therapy


Before anyone can undergo TMS therapy, doctors need to assess the physical well-being of the patient. TMS machines operate like MRI and have some issues with metallic materials as the treatment can displace or heat objects. Also, electric pulses from the TMS machine may disturb electronic circuitry in some implants. Other problematic objects and patient histories include:

  •    Metallic pieces near the head
  •    Pacemakers and other implantable medical devices
  •    History of seizures or epilepsy
  •    Any medications like neuroleptic agents
  •    Patients who are pregnant
  •    People with suffered from serious head injury
  •    Any history of substance abuse in the past
  •    Patients with brain surgery or any medical conditions associated with epilepsy


But there are certain things that the medical provider can do to lower risk, including:

  •    TMS therapy should only be done under the supervision of a trained and licensed physician
  •    A medical practitioner should be ready to carry out proper attention in the event of seizure
  •    Therapy should be done in a medical setting with appropriate emergency facilities


Currently, more study is needed to understand the long-term side effects of TMS therapy. But one thing remains constant based on recent studies; TMS therapy can efficiently treat depression in the long run.


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