Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a series of repetitive, brief and highly focused magnetic pulses, designed to stimulate brain cells. In the US, TMS therapy is appropriate for adults with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), who have failed to achieve satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medication in the current episode. This means that if you have been diagnosed with MDD and medications are not working, or the side effects are intolerable, you should ask your doctor about TMS.
In depressed patients, the electrical activity in certain areas of the brain is shown to be reduced. Using TMS targeted at these areas, we aim to re-awaken these cells, increasing brain activity to normal levels. TMS uses a focused electromagnet to rapidly pulse a magnetic field to the targeted area. The magnetic pulses induce an electrical current in the brain, stimulating the cells into activity. TMS is typically prescribed when antidepressants have failed, or the side effects are intolerable. Antidepressants are systemic, which means that the medication is absorbed into the blood stream. This can cause numerous side effects. TMS is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure with no systemic side effects.
TMS is performed in a doctor’s office or clinic. Treatment sessions last less than 45 minutes and are typically performed 5 days per week, over a six-week period. You will be seated in a comfortable chair, some measurements may be taken and you may be provided with earplugs. Your doctor will position the magnetic coil on your head and treatment will begin. You may feel a moderate tapping on your head under the treatment coil and you will remain awake and alert throughout treatment. Following your session, you will be able to drive home and you can resume normal activities for the rest of the day. TMS is a safe and a well tolerated treatment with very few side effects. Clinical studies show that the most common side effects are mild to moderate scalp discomfort and mild headaches, both of which are short term.