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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treating depression

If you have depression and medicine and psychotherapy aren't helping, you may want to consider transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

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This is the NeuroStar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation device that we use to deliver TMS in our suite at Abbott Northwestern.

Before treatment begins, we position the patient in the chair. The chair and headrests are adjustable to ensure proper alignment and comfort.

For the first visit, we conduct a TMS motor threshold determination to ensure our treatments are accurately targeting the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

The TMS physician and operator methodically move the coil and chart the results until we find the best treatment target.

We adjust the energy of the magnet until we see movement of the patient's hand. Ideally, we search for a location where only the thumb moves after a pulse is given.

After we have identified the target location, we give varying amounts of energy to determine the optimal energy to deliver during a treatment session.

During this portion, we use a program that calculates different energy levels to test. After about 30 pulses, we are able to determine what the treatment SMT Level should be for the patient.

Once we have the location and energy level determined, we move the treatment coil a set amount forward from the MT location and calculate the settings for a full treatment session.

The patient receives their first treatment that day. We use the same settings for each subsequent treatment.

What is transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-drug treatment for people experiencing major depression to help the brain regulate mood.

TMS treatment involves stimulating underactive areas of the brain with brief magnetic pulses.

Clinical studies showed that one in two patients who had TMS had significant improvement in depression symptoms and one in three were symptom free. It is considered a safe treatment with minimal side effects.

What to expect from your visit

TMS is an outpatient service that lasts about 45 minutes per session. It is administered five days a week for up to six weeks.

Prior to the treatment, you will be scheduled for a consultation with a mental health care provider to determine whether TMS is right for you.

During each TMS treatment:

  • You sit comfortably in the treatment chair and remain alert.
  • The mental health care provider will place a small curved device containing a magnetic coil on your scalp near your forehead.
  • You will receive brief magnetic stimulation through the device on your scalp.
  • You will hear "clicking" sounds.
  • You will feel a "tapping" sensation on your forehead.
  • You will be given earplugs to wear.

More information on TMS

  • We are currently unable to treat patients with bipolar disorder, psychosis or a history of mania or hypomania.
  • You may feel discomfort at or near the treatment area. This is often short-lived and usually happens during the first week of treatment only.
  • You will be able to drive yourself to and from treatment sessions and resume your typical activities following each session.

Check with your insurance company to see if they cover TMS.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Mental Health
Reviewed by: Allina Health Mental Health

First published: 9/25/2019
Last reviewed: 9/25/2019