Medical Center Psychiatry is the first facility in the region to offer a new treatment, NeuroStar® Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), for patients who have suffered from depression and have not been helped by medications.
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
Several different areas of the brain regulate mood. These areas are connected by pathways of nerve cells, or neurons. Chemicals called neurotransmitters travel along these neuronal pathways, allowing these regions to communicate. A healthy brain has an appropriate amount of neurotransmitters, allowing the mood regions to communicate and function normally. In a depressed brain, however, the neurotransmitters are depleted or dysfunctional, disrupting this vital network. Antidepressant medications, which stimulate the production and release of neurotransmitters, are usually the first-line treatment for depression. However, these drugs can have side effects, including weight gain, fatigue, nausea and insomnia.
A NEW STRATEGY
TMS takes a different approach to stimulate neurotransmitter production by using targeted magnetic fields similar to MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Neurons respond to this magnetic energy by producing and releasing neurotransmitters without causing medication-related side effects.
TMS therapy is a noninvasive, outpatient treatment. Patients sit in a chair similar to a dentist’s chair while the physician fastens a contoured magnetic coil to the head. The physician then uses the TMS unit’s built-in computer to determine the precise area of the brain to treat and the correct customized dose for the patient before applying the magnetic pulses for about 15 to 37 minutes. Patients remain alert and awake during the treatment and may feel a slight tapping on the scalp. Sedatives or anesthesia are not required, and patients are able to resume normal activities immediately afterward.
Treatments are performed daily for five days a week, for three to six weeks. The most common side effect is pain at or near the treatment site, which usually disappears after the first week. TMS can be used along with antidepressant medications if necessary.
NeuroStar® TMS therapy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is supported by multiple clinical studies. Research indicates that one in two patients responds to treatment, and one in three experiences remission of symptoms.
The effects are long lasting: During a six-month follow-up study, only 11 percent of patients experienced a relapse. If symptoms return, TMS can be performed again; in one study of retreated patients, 85 percent reachieved clinical benefits.