Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS (also referred to as “repetitive TMS”) is a localized, non-invasive outpatient procedure in which magnetic energy is directed towards specific areas of the patient’s brain. TMS is a new treatment intervention, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients suffering from depression and whose symptoms have not improved adequately with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Ongoing clinical trials are investigating its potential benefits in other types of psychiatric diagnoses, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mood disorders and others.
- An electromagnetic coil on the head directly over the area to be stimulated, usually the left of the right prefrontal cortex.
- The coil generates a rapidly pulsating magnetic field which influences the activity of neurons and pathways situated directly under the coil as well as other brain structures connected to them. Repeated sessions of brain stimulation, over time, trigger changes in the brain’s electrochemical activity which help relieve the symptoms of depression.
- Sessions last approximately 20 to 30 minutes, and are repeated several times per week at the beginning of treatment, after which they are gradually spaced out and eventually discontinued, usually after a few weeks.
- TMS does not require any anesthesia or sedation, and the patient remains awake during the entire process.
- A localized, non-invasive procedure, TMS does not have side effects sometimes associated with antidepressant medications such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, dry mouth, sedation, etc. The most common side effects reported during TMS are mild to moderate headache and/or scalp discomfort, and these typically occur less frequently after the first few sessions.
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