Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.
This treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS.
How it works:
During a TMS 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. It’s thought to activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity in depression.
Repetitive TMS requires a series of treatment sessions to be effective. Generally, sessions are carried out daily, five times a week for four to six weeks.
Your first treatment:
Before treatment begins, your doctor will need to identify the best place to put the magnets on your head and the best dose of magnetic energy for you. Your first appointment typically lasts about 60 minutes.
Most likely, during your first appointment:
You’ll be taken to a treatment room, asked to sit in a reclining chair and given earplugs to wear during the procedure.
An electromagnetic coil will be placed against your head and switched off and on repeatedly to produce stimulating pulses. This results in a tapping or clicking sound that usually lasts for a few seconds, followed by a pause. 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 by increasing the magnetic dose until your fingers or hands twitch. Known as your motor threshold, this is used as a reference point in determining the right dose for you. During the course of treatment, the amount of stimulation can be changed, depending on your symptoms and side effects. During each treatment, once the coil placement and dose are identified, you’re ready to begin.
Here’s what to expect during each treatment:
You’ll sit in a comfortable chair, 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 may feel some scalp discomfort during the treatment and for a short time afterward.
After each treatment, you can return to your normal daily activities after your treatment. Typically, between treatments, you can expect to work and drive.
If TMS works for you, your depression symptoms may improve or go away completely. Symptom relief may take a few weeks of treatment.
After completion of a TMS treatment series, standard care for depression ― such as medication and psychotherapy ― may be recommended as ongoing treatment.
If your depression improves with TMS, and then later you have another episode of symptoms, your TMS treatment can be repeated. This is called re-induction. Some insurance companies will cover re-induction.
If your symptoms improve with TMS, discuss ongoing or maintenance treatment options for your depression with your doctor.
If you are a current patient at SMHWI and are interested in TMS treatment, please contact us to discuss getting scheduled for TMS treatment in the future.