Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a procedure that delivers magnetic pulses to a specific area in the brain, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area involved in depression. The magnetic pulses stimulate nerve cells which can lead to improved depressive symptoms and mood. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 as a treatment for depression; so it is relatively new.

TMS is a non-invasive treatment which uses a device that produces a magnetic field to cause electrical currents which stimulate neurons in certain areas of the brain. The magnetic field is delivered as a series of short pulses over four seconds with a 26 second pause in between. This is repeated over and over throughout a treatment.

Typically, a TMS treatment is about 40-45 minutes. It is given daily, Monday through Friday, over 4-6 weeks for a total of 20-30 treatments.

Individuals are awake throughout treatments. Since no anesthesia is used, patients may drive themselves to and from their appointments. Patients receiving TMS can be either inpatient or outpatient.

Many patients may respond well to medications. However, there are a number of patients who have not obtained relief, or have experienced significant side effects. TMS is an alternative for those patients.

TMS is typically used for patients who have mild to moderate depression. Some patients may be resistant to some medications and respond well to TMS. Those patients who have a severe depression may respond better to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which remains the most effective treatment for severe major depression.

TMS is a safe and effective treatment. It has been tolerated well by many individuals. Potential side effects include pain at the site of stimulation, headache and toothache. Generally this is mild and can be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Seizures are extremely rare. No seizures were reported in a recent clinical trial that involved more than 10,000 treatments.

The Pine Rest ECT Clinic provides both ECT and TMS treatments. To begin treatments, a consult is completed by one of Pine Rest’s TMS credentialed psychiatrists. Treatment options are discussed with patients, and together with the psychiatrist a treatment plan is developed.  

TMS is a wonderful option for those individuals who suffer with depression. To learn more about TMS, please call 616/281-6341.

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