Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: new treatment for depression
Posted Jul 31 2009 10:44am
US News and World Report: Patients who struggle to beat back the demons of depression have another option that is creating serious interest among clinicians and researchers. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a form of brain stimulation, which reorganizes a brain's dysfunctional neural circuitry to the benefit of the patient. It's currently being used for people suffering from depression that is treatment-resistant—meaning it doesn't respond to the first-line approaches including lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, and antidepressant medications, but it is being studied for other uses, too. One big appeal: Unlike medications, it specifically hits the brain instead of the whole body So it is also offers an intriguing possible treatment for postpartum depression in women, say, who are breastfeeding and don't want their babies to be exposed to drugs.
To deliver TMS, a clinician presses a device to the patient's head to deliver magnetic pulses that reach about an inch deep inside the skull, causing electrical changes in targeted neurons. Typically, a TMS patient goes through a series of about half-hour treatments, usually several times per week over the course of a few weeks or maybe a month. But the results are temporary and may only last weeks or months; patients may need to return for an additional series of treatments if symptoms return. Side effects include headache, scalp discomfort, twitchy facial muscles, feeling light-headed, and being bothered by the loud noise of the machine. Less commonly, people can suffer seizures, mania, or hearing problems. Any long-term side effects are not yet known.