TMS was approved by the FDA to treat major depressive disorder, specifically for patients who have failed to respond to a prior antidepressant medication. Although numerous antidepressant and other treatments are available, many patients suffer multiple depressive episodes that are not well controlled with existing treatments. Approximately 1/3 of patients treated with conventional antidepressants fail to achieve remission. Many patients suffer from intolerable side effects to commonly used antidepressants, such as nausea, weight gain, insomnia, sedation, emotional blunting and sexual dysfunction. Therefore, TMS is a proven strategy for patients who don’t fully respond to antidepressant medication or are sensitive to their side effects.
How does TMS work?
Through a treatment coil, the NeuroStar TMS Therapy system generates highly concentrated magnetic fields. These magnetic fields are safe and are the same type and strength as those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
The treatment coil is applied gently to the head above the left prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved with mood regulation, and therefore is the location where the magnetic fields are focused. These magnetic fields do not directly effect the whole brain; they only reach about 2-3 centimeters into the brain directly beneath the treatment coil. As these magnetic fields move into the brain, they produce very small electrical currents. These electrical currents activate cells within the brain which are thought to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine to treat depression.
Benefits and Safety
NeuroStarTMS therapy was evaluated for efficacy and safety in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder in patients who failed to receive satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medication. The research shows that approximately 1 in 2 patients treated with TMS experienced significant improvement in their symptoms of depression. In addition approximately 1 in 3 patients experience complete relief from their depressive symptoms.
In clinical trials involving 10,000 treatments, TMS therapy proved to be safe with less than 5% of patients studied discontinuing treatment due to adverse events. The most common side effects associated with TMS treatment were scalp discomfort at the site of administration.
TMS therapy does not cause side effects such as weight gain, sedation, or sexual dysfunction like many antidepressants. Also, TMS has no memory impairment which is a common side effect of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).