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Published on October 03, 2012

TMS Offers New Hope for Depression Sufferers

SIOUX FALLS (Oct. 1, 2012) – Depression is the most common mental health disorder, and an estimated one in 10 adults suffer from it. The good news is, it’s readily treatable with a combination of medication and talk therapy. The bad news is, not everyone responds to medication or can tolerate the side effects.

Learn more about TMS Therapy offered at Avera Behavioral Health »

“Depression is a treatable brain disorder that’s as much a medical disorder as diabetes is, or any other chronic illness you can name,” said Dr. Matthew Stanley, psychiatrist with Avera Behavioral Health Center and Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates.

“Traditional therapies such as medication, psychotherapy and ECT have their place in the treatment of depression, but there is still a large number of patients we’re not able to provide a treatment for that’s acceptable or effective,” Dr. Stanley said.

A new treatment, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), promises to help more people experience relief from depression, without unwanted side effects such as weight gain, insomnia or loss of libido, which some people experience on antidepressants.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain, thought to control mood, is known to be underactive in sufferers of depression. TMS uses highly focused magnetic pulses to stimulate that area and restore it to normal function, thus lifting depression symptoms. TMS is a treatment for people who have failed to find relief from at least one depression medication. The treatment, recently approved by the FDA, is a non-drug, non-invasive treatment. There’s no need for anesthesia or sedatives.

TMS involves about an hour-long visit every day Monday through Friday for four to six weeks. The patient sits in a reclining chair, and the magnetic coil is placed against the patient’s head.

“Electromagnetic technology, similar to MRI but more focused energy, has a long-term record of safety,” Dr. Stanley said. The patient hears a clicking sound, and feels a tapping sensation on the head. “The patient is awake and alert throughout the procedure, and may return to normal activity immediately after treatment,” he said.

Chelsy Walsh of Sioux Falls has suffered from depression for the past 15 years, since age 14. She was seeking greater relief from depression symptoms, and wanted to get off medications if possible, due to adverse side effects.

A full course of TMS treatments has resulted in a noted improvement. One of her medications has been decreased, and she hopes her dosage can continued to be lowered gradually as time progresses. “It’s helped my mood drastically and my outlook on life,” Chelsy says. “It’s also decreased my anxiety level, and helped my ability to sleep.”

Patients may feel some discomfort on the scalp, which is noticed the most at the first treatment and then diminishes at future treatments. Otherwise, there are very few side effects. There is a rare chance (about 1 in 30,000) of seizures.

Chelsy said the procedure is not painful or bothersome. “The atmosphere in the room is calming, so it’s actually a pretty calming experience.”

Some insurance companies cover the treatment on a case-by-case basis. With newly approved therapies, it sometimes takes time before health insurance companies provide complete coverage.

“Many people experience significant benefits,” Dr. Stanley said. In clinical trials, one in two patients improved significantly, and one in three patients were completely free of symptoms.

“Along with medication and psychotherapy, we’re able to use TMS to help more patients experience remission,” Dr. Stanley said.

To learn more about depression and other behavioral health conditions, go to www.AveraBehavioralHealth.org.

Learn more about TMS Therapy offered at Avera Behavioral Health »