Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation – or TMS, for short – is an FDA-approved therapy used to treat people with a mental health diagnosis who have not seen satisfactory improvement from medication. It is clinically proven to help patients suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and other brain health issues. Since 2010, the American Psychiatric Association has recommended TMS for the treatment of major depressive disorder.
TMS: What to Expect
Many people who opt for TMS therapy are excited – as well as curious about what to expect. We’ve identified some important things to know about that occur at each stage of treatment, including before, during, and after.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe and effective treatment for people who have not gotten sufficient relief from medication and therapy for a mental health diagnosis.
TMS therapy is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression.
Patients with PTSD, OCD, or those wishing to enhance brain function or to help them quit smoking have also successfully used transcranial magnetic stimulation. However, insurance may not cover these reasons for the therapy.
TMS is highly effective. The vast majority – more than 70% – of patients who receive the full course of TMS treatment enjoy significant results. Many report substantial relief of their symptoms or that they are now symptom-free.
The benefits of TMS therapy include:
- It is safe, effective, and convenient. Our providers are specially trained to perform this treatment, under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist, right here in our office. There is no downtime following the procedure, so you are able to immediately return to your daily activities after treatment. TMS therapy is not harmful and will not affect cognitive function.
- An alternative to medication. As a nonpharmacological mental health solution, there are no side effects such as the side effects that commonly occur with use of antidepressants or other psychiatric medications, such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction.
- It is pain-free and rarely uncomfortable. It is a noninvasive procedure and no anesthesia, local or otherwise, is necessary.
- It offers long-term effects, for up to several years for most people. How long the effects last will vary by person, and touch-up treatments are available as needed.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is designed for adults age 18 and older.
It is a painless, noninvasive, in-office procedure that involves placing a specially designed coil on the forehead, which delivers short, harmless pulses of magnetic energy over the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for mood regulation and decision-making. This stimulates nerve cell activity, which is typically low in people with depression and other conditions.
No. TMS uses no radiation and no electrical stimulation. It does not affect cognitive functioning, such as memory.
TMS therapy is not appropriate for people with metal implants in their head.
During your TMS therapy session, you will sit in a comfortable chair and a specially designed paddle is placed on the left side of your head. When the TMS machine is turned on, the paddle will make clicking sounds as it delivers magnetic waves. You should be able to feel a slight tapping sensation while this occurs.
On average, an individual treatment session takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on the treatment protocol you choose. It may be as quick as 3 minutes, or as long as 40 minutes.
There is no downtime afterward, and you are free to go about your usual daily tasks.
Yes. There is no need for anesthesia. TMS therapy is noninvasive and painless.
TMS should not be confused with electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. The two are entirely different and distinct procedures. ECT uses electrical stimulation to trigger seizures in the brain. TMS uses magnetic energy to stimulate nerve cells.
Not necessarily. TMS can be used on its own – or alongside medications, such as antidepressants. Most often, TMS is used in people who cannot tolerate the side effects of certain medications. Whether or not you should undergo TMS alone or in conjunction with medication will depend on the condition being treated, type of medication you’re taking, and other factors.
Side effects of TMS therapy are rare. If anything, a small number of people report minor scalp discomfort, tingling, or headaches during the procedure that quickly improve after the treatment session is over. If you are uncomfortable, however, your provider can adjust the stimulation level to alleviate any discomfort you may be experiencing.
There is also a very small chance of seizures or mania as a result of a TMS therapy session – however, this is generally due to the presence of an already existing underlying condition.
TMS is covered by most major insurance companies as a treatment for medication-resistant depression.
We work with these companies every day and will advocate for the highest level of coverage on your behalf. Each insurance company may have different requirements or guidelines, including that the person should have already taken medications and had therapy for a certain amount of time without relief.
The insurance paperwork takes about 1 to 3 weeks to complete.
We accept self-pay for TMS therapy if you have no insurance – or if you are seeking TMS for PTSD, OCD, brain enhancement, to help you quit smoking, or for other reasons you and your provider have discussed. In these cases, a full course of TMS treatment may range from $7,000 to $10,000. We also offer payment plans.
TMS is a highly effective treatment. Think of it this way, if TMS didn’t work, you can bet that your insurance company wouldn’t be paying for you to get it!
Here are the general outcome statistics for TMS therapy:
TMS has a success rate of between 70% and 80%, meaning that the vast majority of people find significant relief after completing the full course of treatment. About 50% of people experience complete remission, meaning their symptoms are completely absent.
To understand TMS success rates, it’s important to understand medication success rates.
- A large clinical study called the STAR*D study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), found that commonly prescribed medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are only successful 27.5% of the time.
- If SSRIs don’t work – as is the case for many individuals with treatment-resistant depression – the success rate for the medication decreases. By the time an individual tries four different medications, the next medication they try will have a success rate of less than 7%.
- Many individuals spend 4-8 months trying different medications when the probability of a symptom-free existence with medication appears unlikely.
At Denver Wellness Associates, we use state-of-the-art CloudTMS and MagVenture transcranial magnetic stimulation equipment.