Posted on December 17, 2009 at 3:02 PM
Friday, Dec 18 at 11:43 AM
There’s a new option for patients with depression who have failed to get better with standard therapy. It’s a novel approach that uses magnetic simulation.
Jan Miller, 41, is trying a new kind of therapy. Standard antidepressants have helped a little, but she didn’t like the way the pills made her feel.
“The side effects make me worse than actually helping,” she said, “so I’m excited about this new technology.”
The new technology is called transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS. The machine uses high-intensity magnetic pulses directed to the left pre-frontal cortex, an area of the brain specific for depression.
Once inside the brain, the pulses induce an electrical current to flow, a charge that causes neurons to become active. The theory is that it leads to the release of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
“There’s no sedation,” explained San Antonio psychiatrist Dr. Fermin Briones. “There’s no medication involved. People drive up, sit in the chair, have the procedure done, get up from the chair and drive back home.”
Miller observed, “It’s non-invasive. I really like that. It’s very simple. You just sit in a chair. It’s like going to the dentist.”
The pulses fire for six seconds and pause for 26 seconds. The sessions last about 40 minutes. Patients feel a slight tapping on their scalp.
The average therapy requires daily applications for several weeks to work. Relief can come as quickly as two weeks.
Clinical trials showed great promise. “One of three had complete symptom resolution,” stated Briones. “So that’s pretty amazing results.”
Transcranial magnetic stimulation was approved by the FDA in 2008. It costs several thousand dollars and is sometimes covered by insurance.