TMS: A New Treatment For Severe Depression

By Dr. Steve Harvey, MD

TMS is a new and highly-effective treatment for major depression. TMS, which is transcranial magnetic stimulation, treats severe depression by stimulating a targeted area of the brain with magnetic pulses. TMS was approved by the FDA in 2008, and has improved since then.

Most people who suffer from major depression get relief with standard treatments such as medications and/or psychotherapy. But many others will spend months or years trying one medicine after another — and nothing seems to help. But because TMS is different, it will often work well for those who don’t get better with other treatments. TMS is a great backup plan when other treatments fail.

How does TMS work? TMS delivers a rapid-fire series of MRI-strength magnetic pulses, which induces electrical eddy currents in the brain. The pulses are directed at a part of the brain called the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (also called the L-DLFPC). The L-DLFPC is known to be involved in depression. Each treatment lasts 20-40 minutes, and typically a series of about 30 treatments are given over several weeks.

What are the side effects of TMS? The main side effect is scalp discomfort; the treatment feels like having a woodpecker on your head. That discomfort is temporary. In rare cases (much less than 1%), stimulation has caused people to have a seizure during treatment.

Who is a candidate for TMS? TMS is mostly for people who have a more severe depression, and who have tried and failed a number of different antidepressant medications. TMS is not safe for those with non-removable metal objects in their head – such as metal aneurysm clips, or surgical plates. Metal tooth filings are no problem, however. TMS should usually not be given to anyone with a history of epilepsy, or to anyone with an active drug or alcohol problem.

Does insurance cover TMS? Some insurances cover it, and some do not. Medicare coverage for TMS is expanding across the country, but has not yet reached Missouri.

Where do I get more information? For more information about TMS StLouis check our website at TMS-StLouis.com. Or for more information about TMS in general, check TMSyou.com.