"What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?" and other FAQs
If you’re considering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy as a treatment option for mental health conditions, here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand what it involves.
No. TMS Therapy involves a unique method of using pulsed magnetic fields for therapeutic benefit. The intensity of the magnetic field is similar to that of the magnetic fields used in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. These techniques differ radically from the popular use of low intensity, static magnetic fields. These products deliver weak and undirected static fields that are not capable of activating brain cells.
No, the two procedures are very different. While both are effective in the treatment of depression, there are many differences in safety and tolerability.
During TMS Therapy, patients sit in a chair and are awake and alert throughout the entire 37-minute procedure – no sedation is used with TMS Therapy. Patients can transport themselves to and from treatment.
In over 10,000 active treatments with the TMS Therapy system in clinical trials, no seizures were observed. TMS Therapy was also shown to have no negative effects on memory function in these studies.
In contrast, “shock therapy,” or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), intentionally causes a seizure. Patients receiving ECT must be sedated with general anesthesia and paralyzed with muscle relaxants. Recovery from an ECT treatment session occurs slowly, and patients are usually closely monitored for minutes or a even few hours after a treatment.
Short-term confusion and memory loss are common with ECT, and long-term disruptions in memory have been shown to occur and may persist indefinitely in some people. Because of the side effects associated with ECT, a significant amount of caregiver support is required.
The traditional treatment of TMS Therapy is 5 times per week for 37 minutes sessions over 4-6 weeks.
There is an accelerated treatment option that takes 1-2 weeks with 3 to 10, 20 minute sessions a day. Contact our office for more information on either of these options.
Any additional treatments are based on clinical judgment.
TMS Therapy has been shown to be well tolerated and the TMS Therapy system has been demonstrated to be safe in clinical trials. Throughout over 10,000 active treatments performed in clinical trials, the most commonly reported side effect related to treatment was scalp discomfort during treatment sessions. This side effect was generally mild to moderate and occurred less frequently after the first week of treatment. Less than 5% of patients treated with TMS Therapy discontinued treatment due to side effects.
In clinical trials, over 10,000 TMS treatments demonstrated its safety, with no occurrence of seizures. However, there is a small risk of a seizure occurring during treatment. This risk is no greater than what has been observed with oral antidepressant medications.
While TMS Therapy has been demonstrated to be effective, not all patients will benefit from it. Patients should be carefully monitored for worsening symptoms, signs or symptoms of suicidal behavior, and/or unusual behavior. Families and caregivers should also be aware of the need to observe patients and notify their treatment provider if symptoms worsen.
TMS Therapy uses the same type and strength of magnetic fields as MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), which have been used in tens of millions of patients around the world and have not been shown to cause tumors. The magnetic energy used in a full course of TMS Therapy is a small fraction of just one brain scan with an MRI.
No, the TMS Therapy system was systematically evaluated for its effects on memory. Clinical trials demonstrated that TMS Therapy does not result in any negative effects on memory or concentration.
Most patients find that TMS is not painful. You may feel slight discomfort of the scalp during and after treatment and a tapping sensation on your forehead during treatment. After treatment, you are able to go about your normal routine without interruption.
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Do you have additional questions you’d like answered regarding TMS? Please send us a message and one of our members from the TMS Care Team will be in touch shortly.