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TMS - A Hope for Treatment of Major Depression

Posted October 18, 2019 by Jaimie McKinnon, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC, Vice President, Behavioral Health Institute


While the exact cause of depression isn’t known, it is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells. While there are many effective treatments for depression, the typical approaches like therapy and antidepressants don’t necessarily work for everyone.

For decades, shock therapy, or ECT, has been used to treat major depression that was not treatable with medication and therapy. While there is a stigma associated with the early use of ECT, it has come a long way and is much safer today. That being said, it can still have some side effects that affect memory and cognition. That’s why new treatments have been developed to treat major depression. One of those treatments is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

What is TMS?

During TMS, sensors are placed on your head and pulses are sent to the areas of your brain that affect depression. The difference from shock therapy is that TMS is noninvasive – during a session, a magnet similar in strength to an MRI machine is used to painlessly deliver a magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells that control mood in your brain.

Does TMS Work?

In trials, one out of two patients treated with TMS saw significant improvements in their depression symptoms and one out of three experienced complete relief from their symptoms at the end of six weeks. Of course, like most other treatments for mood disorders, there is still a recurrence rate; but many people treated with TMS felt better for many months after treatment.

What You Can Expect:
TMS treatment happens right in your doctor’s office, you’re awake during the treatments and you can return to normal activities right away. You probably won’t even need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the treatment.

The treatments are about 20-45 minutes long, and no anesthesia is required. Usually, multiple treatments over the course of a few weeks are needed to see significant changes in mood. 

Before getting the treatment, you’ll need to discuss all treatment options with your psychiatrist and have a full physical exam and lab tests. This will make sure that TMS is a good and safe option for you.

As with any medical procedure, there can be side effects, but unlike some other depression treatment options, most patients don’t have any cognitive side effects. Some of the more common side effects are headaches or temporary pain near the treatment site.

As with all mood disorder treatments, we encourage all patients to continue to see their psychiatrist, therapist and primary care physician during and following treatment.

As we learn more and more about depression and other mood disorders, it’s exciting to see new and improved treatment options that will give the people suffering from these disorders new hope every day. At the Summa Health Behavioral Health Institute, we are at the cutting edge of all the latest treatments for depression, including TMS. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 330.379.8765.

Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.