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rTMS – An Effective Treatment for Depression

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What Is rTMS for Depression?

rTMS for Depression is a form of brain stimulation therapy that has been studied and used as a possible treatment for depression, along with other neurological and psychological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others. rTMS involves using magnetic pulses to trigger and activate different parts of the brain, instead of using electricity to do the same.

How does rTMS treatment work?

rTMS is used as an alternative treatment used when antidepressants and psychotherapy fail to bring results. It’s generally administered by a TMS physician.

rTMS treatment is a non-invasive procedure, and these sessions can last anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour. During repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation procedure, you will be made to sit on a reclining chair, while an electromagnetic coil is held near your head.

The medical professional will place the coil against the forehead, near the area of your brain that regulates your moods. Once activated, the coil will pass magnetic stimulation that will target a section of the brain. The magnetic pulses will bring about electrical current in specific nerve cells. It’s also thought that the electrical currents stimulate brain cells in a way that can reduce depression episodes. Doctors usually aim at the prefrontal cortex for depression. An electric current is induced only in specific nerve cells.

The rTMS therapy consists of a series of treatment sessions where the duration of each session changes as per the TMS coil used and the number of pulses delivered. Generally, each session takes around 30-40 minutes for 5 days a week. A complete rTMS treatment session may take 4 to 6 weeks. The duration may depend based on an individual’s response to therapy.

On average, you may be required to take around 30 rTMS sessions. To obtain the best outcomes, rTMS sessions should be taken at least 2 to 3 times a week. You can expect an effect within 8 to q2 sessions.

This is a comparatively new method of treating depression. The effects it can cause are still being researched upon by doctors. It resets the brain wave frequencies using electric currents and is known to improve the symptoms of depression.

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rTMS and ECT- The Difference

Most therapies include stimulating the brain in various ways. ECT is one such treatment because it includes placing electrodes on specific areas of the brain and creating a current that will cause a seizure in the brain. The whole procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Doctors will also provide the patient with muscle relaxers to prevent any shaking during the stimulation process. This is different from rTMS because the patient doesn’t receive any sedation, this is beneficial because it reduces the risk of potential side effects.

Another key difference between the two is the ability to target specific areas of the brain. The rTMS coil is held over a certain area of the brain, and the impulses will only affect the targeted area of the brain. Electroconvulsive therapy can’t target specific areas of the brain. ECT is usually used to treat severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts, catatonia, and so on; rTMS is mainly used to treat severe depression episodes

This is where rTMS differs from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT sends an electric current throughout your brain, while rTMS only sends the current to a specific targeted part of your brain.

rTMS for Depression- rTMS treatment-resistant depression

Who Should Undergo This Treatment?

Victims of depression that have not had any success with other methods may opt for this method. If your health conditions are not eligible to undergo ECT, you may choose to undergo rTMS instead.

As per the FDA, rTMS can be conducted to treat depression in people aged 18 years or older. However, studies have found out that rTMS is also safe to be carried out in children aged 5, 9, and 10.

However, if you have any medical devices implanted, like a pacemaker, or if you have had episodes of epilepsy, then you may need to consider other methods of treatment.

Who should stay away from rTMS treatment?

Magnetic stimulation may not be suitable for everyone with depression, you must consult with your medical professional before starting this process. The coil can be quite dangerous for anyone who has a mental implant in their head or neck. Some other examples of people who shouldn’t get rTMS include:

  • Aneurysm coils or coils
  • Shrapnel or bullet fragments near the head
  • Cardiac pacemakers
  • Facial tattoos that have magnetic ink or ink that is sensitive to magnetic energy
  • Metal implants in the ears or eyes
  • Stent in the neck or brain

Your doctor must perform a thorough examination and take a good look at your medical history before using a transcranial magnetic stimulation device.

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What are the possible side effects that come with magnetic stimulation?

You are assured that rTMS side effects don’t include any pain, but people have found the magnetic stimulation process quite uncomfortable. They describe it as a consistent tapping on the forehead, with every pulse. Also, the electromagnetic pulses can cause the facial muscles to get tighter or even tingle as well.

There are no major side effects with rTMS, but there are mild ones like:

  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Experiencing temporary hearing problems because of the loud magnet noise
  • Mild headaches
  • Tingling sensations in the jaw, scalp, or face
  • nausea
  • scalp irritation
  • seizure
  • hearing loss
  • vision problems
  • mania

*Severe effects such as hearing loss and seizures are very rare.

rTMS can not only help in treating major depression, but also depression caused due to other neurological or psychological disorders, such as Parkinson’s.

What are the results you can expect from rTMS therapy?

If rTMS therapy has successful results in your case, then you may expect your depression symptoms to go away completely. However, your symptoms may take a few weeks to completely get healed.

Once one rTMS session is done, techniques like medication and psychotherapy can be done as ongoing treatment. There’s no information yet whether maintenance rTMS i.e. ongoing treatment without the presence of any problems to prevent the return of symptoms has any positive results or not. However, if your depressive symptoms improve with rTMS therapy and later return, you can start the therapy again, also known as re-induction.

Depression can be difficult to go through, especially alone.

If anyone you know or care about is depressed, urge them to seek help and get better.

Speak Your Mind. Talk to our professionals. Call us on 96111 94949 or Cadabam’s Mental Health Rehab.

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