If you’re among the more than 350 million people across the globe who experience depression, then you understand how it can impact your ability to fully enjoy life. Thankfully, therapy and sometimes medication can help. However, for some with depression, particularly those with clinical depression, treatment is more difficult. It can sometimes be hard to find the right combination of tools to help alleviate symptoms.
Because it can be such a struggle, a treatment called Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS) was developed. It may help some patients with clinical depression who have not responded to other treatments. This technique has been used at Harvard Medical School affiliate McLean Hospital, New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, and the U.S. Navy. The Cheat Sheet spoke with Dr. Aron Tendler, chief medical officer of Brainsway to learn more about this depression treatment. We also chatted with a patient who has used Deep TMS for even more insight. Here’s what they had to say.
The Cheat Sheet: What is Deep TMS and how does it work?
Dr. Aron Tendler: Deep TMS uses specially designed H coils (magnets) to reach targets beneath the surface of the skull (3 to 4 centimeters depending on the coil) and stimulate specific larger volume areas. It involves a 20-minute session sitting in a chair wearing a helmet with a sensation of tapping during the treatment.
CS: How have patients responded to the treatment?
AT: 70% to 80% of patients get better, and these are treatment-resistant patients.
CS: How does Deep TMS differ from other treatment options for depression?
AT: The other efficacious treatments for treatment-resistant depression are electroconvulsive therapy, which has cognitive side effects and requires anesthesia and antipsychotic augmentation, which has metabolic side effects such as weight gain, sedation, and sexual side effects. Deep TMS has no weight gain, no sexual side effects, no movement disorders, no cognitive side effects, and no anesthesia.
CS: What are some of the side effects of Deep TMS?
AT: Temporary discomfort or pain on the scalp, face or jaw, which can be prevented with over-the-counter analgesics. There is also a rare incidence of seizure during the treatments.
CS: Is it safe?
AT: Yes, the only contraindication is ferromagnetic material in the skull.
The Cheat Sheet also chatted with Kim, a patient who tried Deep TMS. Here’s some of what she had to say.
The Cheat Sheet: What brought you in to try Deep TMS?
Kim: My doctor, who I trust immensely, recommended Deep TMS to me when I was failing to respond to oral medications. I was in a deep depression and could barely perform daily functions. I was already taking several different antidepressants and had tried many other antidepressants, which failed to work.
CS: How long have you been treated with Deep TMS?
Kim: I did a two-month treatment protocol that was three days a week.
CS: How have you responded to the treatment? What is your mood like?
Kim: I am able to perform daily routine tasks now. Before, I was sleeping or staying in bed for most hours of the day. I am much more functional than I was before. I have less intrusive bad thoughts then I did before Deep TMS. I am much more able to cope with adversity than I was before Deep TMS. And my quality of life has improved tremendously.
CS: What was your mood like before treatment?
Kim: I was severely depressed before treatment. I was extremely anxious basically 24 hours a day, and I wasn’t able to control my depression or anxiety.
CS: In what other ways has the treatment changed your life?
Kim: Deep TMS gave me back my ability to function in daily life. Before, I felt hopeless and my depression was unending. Now I don’t feel as depressed. I also know if my depression becomes bad again or if I hit another crisis in my life, there is a way, TMS, to treat my depression, PTSD, and anxiety that works.
CS: Would you recommend the procedures to others?
Kim: Yes. I feel it’s a really good means to improve the quality of life to people suffering from things such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, like I had. I feel fortunate that it was suggested to me because without Deep TMS, I think I would not be in as good of a state in my life as I am now.
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo