In the ardent quest to effectively treat major depression new entries have joined the realm of alternative therapies that are based on using electrical currents. With rates of depression and suicide rising, finding a treatment for those who are medication-resistant is a noble endeavor. Only about half of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) achieve successful treatment results with antidepressant medications. For the ones who continue to suffer the brutal effects of depression, the search for a new alternative therapy often leads them to consider electro-cures, or treatments involving stimulating the brain with low levels of electrical currents.
Various Electro-Cures for Depression
The most recognized electro-cure is also the one that has been available to treat mental illness, including depression, the longest. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as “shock therapy,” was introduced in Italy in the 1930s. ECT is administered through electrode pads placed on one or both sides of the head. Early versions of ECT were considered barbaric, with some patients sustaining broken teeth or bones during the procedure, which elicits a seizure and subsequent convulsions. In recent years, ECT has modified the procedure to include prescribing muscle relaxants so spasms would not be as severe. ECT is considered an effective treatment for extreme cases of depression where risk of suicide may be present. The procedure requires a hospital stay in many instances because general anesthesia is required. Side effects caused by the anesthesia make this a higher risk treatment, as well as reported memory impairment and confusion.
Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) involves the use of a small handheld device that stimulates the cranium and brain with a low level electrical current. Currently, the FDA has classified these devices as Class III, or moderate to high-risk devices that require a prescription by a physician. To date, only one small (7 patients) sham-controlled clinical trial has been published, and that trial only lasted for a one-month period. Side effects to CES have been either mild or absent.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves neurostimulation via low-level electrical currents delivered through electrodes placed strategically on the scalp. Two types of electrical currents, anodal and cathodal, act to either stimulate or inhibit brain activity. Some reported itching or tingling on the scalp where the electrodes were situated. A 2013 review of the data associated with this treatment method found its effectiveness to be “unclear.” This treatment has not yet been cleared by the FDA and is still considered to be experimental.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) for Depression
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) was cleared by the FDA in 2013 for use in treating medication-resistant depression. Deep TMS involves the use of magnetic fields that are delivered through a helmet that contains an H-coil, targeting the prefrontal cortex where it will reach up to 6 cm in depth. The resulting electrical currents will act to stimulate the nerve cells in the brain, improving the patient’s depression symptoms over the 4-6 week treatment period. The patient is fully alert during the dTMS sessions and can return to normal activities immediately following the therapy.
Deep TMS for depression has been shown to be a safe and noninvasive alternative treatment method. The promising results of over 60 clinical trials have repeatedly demonstrated that dTMS is safe and statistically significant in reducing the symptoms of MDD. Any side effects were either mild or non-existent, with some reporting irritation at the site on the scalp where the pulses are administered, or a mild to moderate headache.
Achieve TMS Largest dTMS Provider for Depression Treatment
Achieve TMS West is the premier provider of dTMS for depression, having multiple convenient locations in Southern California, as well as a new office opening in Portland, Oregon. At Achieve TMS, the Brainsway dTMS technology provides the state-of- the-art equipment for effectively treating medication-resistant MDD. The expert medical staff has decades of experience in depression treatment using a multidisciplinary approach, leaving no stone unturned. For more information about dTMS for depression, please call us at (877) 447-6503.