Frequently Asked Questions

What is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy, is a non-invasive, non-systemic, non-drug treatment for depression. TMS Therapy uses a targeted pulsed magnetic field, similar to the magnetic field produced by an MRI machine, to stimulate the under-active area of your brain thought to control mood.

How does TMS Therapy work?

TMS Therapy uses short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate the areas of the brain that are thought to function differently in patients with depression. The magnetic field produces an electric current in the brain that stimulates the brain cells (neurons). This results in changes in the brain that are thought to be beneficial in the treatment of depression.

Is TMS Therapy uncomfortable?

The most common side effect related to treatment is scalp pain or discomfort during treatment sessions — generally mild to moderate.

If necessary, you can treat this discomfort with an over-the-counter analgesic. If these side effects persist, your doctor can temporarily reduce the strength of the magnetic field pulses being administered in order to make treatment more comfortable.

Less than 5% of patients treated with TMS Therapy discontinued treatment due to side effects.

What are the potential risks of TMS Therapy?

TMS Therapy is well tolerated and has been proven to be safe in clinical trials. Throughout over 10,000 active treatments performed in clinical trials, the most commonly reported side effect related to treatment was scalp pain or discomfort during treatment sessions. These side effects were generally mild to moderate, and occurred less frequently after the first week of treatment.

Over 10,000 TMS Therapy treatments were administered during clinical trials to demonstrate its safety, with no occurrence of seizures. However, there is a small risk of a seizure occurring during treatment. This risk is no greater than what has been observed with oral antidepressant medications.

While TMS Therapy has been proven effective, not all patients will benefit from it. Patients should be carefully monitored for worsening symptoms, signs or symptoms of suicidal behavior, and/or unusual behavior. Families and caregivers should also be aware of the need to observe patients and notify their treatment provider if symptoms worsen.

What is a typical course of TMS Therapy?

A typical course of TMS Therapy is 5 days per week, for a period of 4-6 weeks, with each treatment lasting approximately 19-30 minutes. The parameters, frequency, and number of treatments are customized for each patient by the physician.

When will I begin to notice results with TMS Therapy?

The time it takes to notice results with TMS Therapy will vary patient to patient. Some patients may notice a slight improvement in their depressive symptoms after one to two weeks of treatment, while others may not have noticeable changes until weeks four or five of treatment. If it takes longer to notice improvements in your depressive symptoms compared to someone else, this does not mean that the treatment is ineffective. Ultimately, the effects of TMS Therapy are the same: relief of depressive symptoms that are long lasting.

How long will the results of TMS Therapy last?

When wondering how long TMS Therapy results will last, it’s important to remember that there is not a “one size fits all” resolution for depression; therefore, each patient will have their own unique response. In many cases, a 6-8 week treatment regimen will provide remission that lasts about six months or longer. Occasionally, TMS Therapy maintenance sessions are needed to prolong remission.

Is TMS Therapy the same as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?

No, the two procedures are very different. While both are effective in the treatment of depression, there are many differences in safety and tolerability.

During TMS Therapy, patients sit in a reclined chair and are awake and alert throughout the entire procedure. Unlike ECT, no sedation is used with TMS Therapy.

During the clinical trial phase of TMS Therapy, in over 10,000 administered treatments, no negative effects on memory or concentration were observed. However, TMS Therapy does carry a remote risk of seizure.

In contrast, “shock therapy” or Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), intentionally causes a seizure. Patients receiving ECT must be sedated with general anesthesia and paralyzed with muscle relaxants. Recovery from an ECT treatment occurs slowly, and patients typically require close medical monitoring after receiving the treatment.

Short-term confusion and memory loss are common with ECT. In addition, long-term disruptions in memory have been shown to occur and may persist indefinitely in some individuals. Due to the side effects associated with ECT, a significant amount of caregiver support is required.

Can I take anti-depressant medications in conjunction with TMS Therapy?

Yes – in clinical trials, TMS Therapy was safely administered both with and without the concurrent use of antidepressant medications.

Can TMS Therapy cause brain tumors?

The magnetic fields utilized in TMS Therapy is similar to those which are used in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine. However, TMS Therapy uses a small fraction of the magnetic field exposure you would experience during an MRI. There have not been demonstrated negative effects of repetitive MRI’s. For this same reason, there is no evidence to show that TMS Therapy causes brain tumors.

Can TMS Therapy cause memory loss?

No – TMS Therapy was systematically evaluated for its effects on memory. Clinical trials consistently demonstrated that TMS Therapy does not result in any negative effects on memory or concentration.

Is TMS Therapy covered by my insurance?

Yes, as awareness of TMS Therapy continues to grow, so does insurance coverage. TMS is covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare and Tricare.

Is TMS Therapy right for me?

Have you taken more than one antidepressant medication?
Are your depressive symptoms still present despite your antidepressant medication?
Have you had to discontinue an antidepressant medication due to intolerable side effects?
Has depression interfered with your daily life?
Are you interested in a proven, non-drug therapy for depression?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, TMS Therapy may be a treatment option for you.