For too many people who battle depression, relief from its devastating symptoms remains elusive. While antidepressant medications do offer some relief for 50-70% of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), the devastating symptoms persist for the remaining 30-50%. In fact, studies have shown that in many cases a placebo has the same effect on MDD as the medication itself.
Additionally, unpleasant side effects from the medications compound the sense of hopelessness that medication-resistant patients experience. Side effects from these drugs range from mild to severe and include irritability, headaches, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and even suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Is it no wonder that patients might turn to brain stimulation therapies in search of a cure for their MDD?
There are two primary brain stimulation therapies for treating drug-resistant MDD: deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). While these are both effective treatments for major depression, the vast differences between dTMS and ECT treatment side effects are significant.
ECT has been in use for treating severe depression as well as other serious mental illness for about 80 years. The patient receives the treatment while under a general anesthesia and will require about an hour of recuperation before returning to normal activities. A typical course of treatment includes three sessions per week for 2-4 weeks.
ECT uses electric currents delivered through electrodes that have been placed on the scalp. The electric currents pass through the brain and result in an induced seizure, which alters the neurotransmitters and helps ease symptoms of depression. An antidepressant or mood stabilizer is prescribed along with the ECT.
Since its inception, ECT treatment side effects have led to a negative stigma that continue to dog this therapy to this day. In its early days—then known as shock therapy—ECT was known to have had caused severe side effects, including broken bones and even death as a result of the seizures. In recent years the treatment has evolved to be less draconian. Regardless, ECT treatment side effects and risks make this option somewhat prohibitive, including:
- Memory impairment
- Complications associated with general anesthesia
- Potential alterations in blood pressure
- Cardiovascular complications can occur, including arrhythmias and ischemia
- Dental or oral trauma
- Mild to moderate pain and discomfort, including headache and muscle aches
Deep TMS was FDA cleared in 2013 for the treatment of medication-resistant MDD. The patient is fully alert during the 20-minute treatment session and can immediately return to normal activities following the therapy. A typical course of treatment includes five sessions per week for 4-6 weeks.
Deep TMS uses magnetic fields that are administered through an H-coil placed on the scalp. The magnetic pulses pass through the scalp to a depth of up to 6 cm into the brain, stimulating the underactive brain cells in the limbic region of the brain. This eventually rebalances brain chemistry, resulting in relief of the symptoms of depression. An antidepressant may or may not accompany dTMS.
Because no anesthesia is needed for dTMS, this is a safe and well-tolerated option for patients who did not respond to antidepressants. Side effects are minimal, if any. Some have reported mild to moderate headache, or scalp irritation.
Achieve TMS Largest U.S. Provider of dTMS Treatment for Depression
With multiple office locations in Southern California, the central coast, and the Portland, Oregon region, Achieve TMS is the leader in dTMS therapy for treating MDD. The doctors and technicians are experts in this exciting new alternative treatment, offering hope to those who found no relief from symptoms with antidepressants. For more information about this state-of-the-art depression treatment, please call us today at (877) 447-6503.