Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. This treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it's called repetitive TMS or rTMS.
During an rTMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression. The stimulation appears to ease depression symptoms and improve mood.
Depression is a treatable condition, but for some people, standard treatments aren't effective. Repetitive TMS is typically used when standard treatments such as medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) don't work.
Repetitive TMS is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation used for depression. And unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), rTMS doesn't cause seizures or require sedation with anesthesia. Generally, rTMS is considered safe and well-tolerated. However, it is important to be aware of potential side effects.
Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation
Tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles
Uncommon side effects
Serious side effects are rare. They may include:
Mania, particularly in people with bipolar disorder
Hearing loss if there is inadequate ear protection during treatment
Before having rTMS, you may need a physical exam and possibly lab tests or other tests. In addition, you may need a psychiatric evaluation to discuss your depression. These evaluations help make sure that rTMS is safe and a good option for you.
It's also a good idea to check with your health insurance company to see whether rTMS is covered.
Repetitive TMS is usually conducted in a doctor's office or clinic. It requires a series of treatment sessions to be effective. Generally, sessions are carried out daily, five times a week for four to six weeks.
You'll be taken to a treatment room. An electromagnetic coil will be placed against your head. You'll also feel a tapping sensation on your forehead. This part of the process is called mapping. Your doctor will determine the amount of magnetic energy needed.
You'll sit in a comfortable chair, wearing ear plugs, with the magnetic coil placed against your head. When the machine is turned on, you'll hear clicking sounds and feel tapping on your forehead. The procedure will last about 40 minutes, and you'll remain awake and alert.
You can return to your normal daily activities after your treatment. Typically, between treatments, you can expect to work and drive.
If rTMS works for you, your depression symptoms may improve or go away completely. Symptom relief may take a few weeks of treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of mental or physical distress and would like to discuss your treatment options, schedule an appointment with one of our providers today by using our online form or by calling (805) 341-3416 during normal business hours.