Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

We are glad to offer transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at The GW Medical Faculty Associates as a treatment of depression.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure, not requiring anesthesia, performed in a doctor’s office, that stimulates brain cells using magnetic fields to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is usually used when other treatments  for depression such as  medications and psychotherapy have failed.

During a TMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed near your forehead on your scalp. In a painless way, the coil delivers pulses of magnetic fields stimulating brain cells involved in mood control and depression.

Because the treatment for depression involves using repetitive pulses for each session, it is called repetitive TMS (rTMS).

TMS sessions are carried out daily for 4-6 weeks. Each session will last for 40 minutes. The first session will typically last longer, around 60 minutes, as the physician has to determine the optimal site and the amount of magnetic energy needed for stimulation. This process is called mapping and is usually repeated every 2 weeks.

TMS is well tolerated and safe. However, some patients could experience some side effects.

Common side effects include headache, lightheadedness, scalp discomfort , tingling or twitching of the facial muscles. These side effects are usually mild and tend to improve with every subsequent session.

Serious side effects are very uncommon and include seizures, hearing loss (if there is inadequate ear protection during the sessions) and mania (in people with bipolar disorder).

You will need a referral from the physician treating your depression and follow-up with the same physician to see if you are benefiting from the treatment.

Symptom relief may take few weeks of treatment. rTMS is less likely to work if the mental illness includes psychotic symptoms, failure to respond to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and refractory chronic depression that has been lasting for many years.

Contraindications for TMS include the presence of any metallic or medical implanted device close enough to the electromagnetic coil such as aneurysm clips or coils and deep brain stimulators, pregnancy and a history of seizures.

If you suffer from depressive symptoms and are deemed a good candidate for rTMS by your referring physician, we look forward to seeing you in our TMS lab to help you.

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