Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

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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.

How it works

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.

Why it's done

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.

Risks

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.

Common side effects

  • Headache

  • Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation

  • Tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles

  • Lightheadedness

  • Uncommon side effects

Serious side effects

Serious side effects are rare. They may include:

  • Seizures

  • Mania, particularly in people with bipolar disorder

  • Hearing loss if there is inadequate ear protection during treatment

How you prepare

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.

What to Expect

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.

Before Your First Treatment

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.

During each treatment

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.

After each treatment

You can return to your normal daily activities after your treatment. Typically, between treatments, you can expect to work and drive.

Results

If rTMS works for you, your depression symptoms may improve or go away completely. Symptom relief may take a few weeks of treatment.

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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.

(805) 341-3416
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