What is TMS Therapy and how does it work?
TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is the first and only FDA approved treatment for depression that does not require medication or hospitalization.
It works by stimulating the brain non-invasively using an electromagnetic field, similar to those magnetic fields produced by an MRI machine. During TMS Therapy, a magnetic field is administered in very short pulses to the part of the brain associated with depression. It is a safe and effective treatment performed in a psychiatrist’s office. Patients remain awake and alert and are able to resume their daily activities at the end of the session.
What is a typical course of treatment with TMS Therapy?
In clinical trials, patients received TMS Therapy 5 times per week for 4-6 weeks. Session can last as little as 19 minutes. Patients treated with TMS Therapy should receive treatment for a minimum of four weeks with additional treatments based on clinical judgment.
Are there any side effects associated with TMS Therapy?
Unlike medication, TMS does not travel through the bloodstream. Therefore it does not cause unwanted side effects such as nausea, weight gain, sedation, upset stomach, sexual dysfunction, etc. The most common side effect associated with TMS treatment is scalp discomfort during treatment sessions — generally mild to moderate. If necessary, this discomfort can be treated with an over-the-counter analgesic.
If these side effects persist, we can make temporary adjustments in order to make the treatment more comfortable. However, this discomfort usually dissipates after a few sessions and patients are able to relax and feel at ease fairly quickly. Less than 5% of patients treated with TMS Therapy discontinued treatment due to side effects.
Does TMS Therapy cause brain tumors?
No, TMS Therapy uses the same type and strength of magnetic fields as MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), which have been used in tens of millions of patients around the world and have not been shown to cause tumors. The magnetic energy used in a full course of TMS Therapy is a small fraction of just one brain scan with an MRI.
Does TMS cause memory loss?
No, TMS Therapy was systematically evaluated for its effects on memory. Clinical trials demonstrated that TMS Therapy does not result in any negative effects on memory or concentration.
Can I also take antidepressant(s) if I am receiving TMS Therapy?
Yes. In clinical trials, TMS Therapy was safely administered with and without other antidepressant medications.
Who should not receive TMS Therapy?
TMS Therapy should not be used (is contraindicated) in patients with implanted metallic devices or non-removable metallic objects in or around the head. TMS Therapy should be used with caution in patients with implanted devices that are controlled by physiological signals. This includes pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). It should be used in caution with patients using wearable cardioverter defibrillators.
Will TMS Therapy be covered by my insurance?
Health insurers are recognizing the efficacy of TMS as a standard of care in routine clinical use, yet coverage is not automatic. With that said, we are dedicated to providing top quality care while making TMS therapy affordable.
At this time, TMS Therapy is covered by most insurance companies on a case-by-case basis. We have had success in receiving coverage from the following:
- Empire Blue Cross (Anthem)
- GHI (Emblem)
- United HealthCare
- ValueOptions - Beacon
- Empire NYSHIP
In considering the cost of TMS Therapy, one should also consider the cost of depression. How has depression affected your life, your relationships, your health, and your work? How would your life change for the better if your depression was improved or in remission?