Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, affecting approximately 7.1% of the US adult population. MDD can be debilitating and interfere with one’s ability to perform everyday activities, such as eating, socializing, and working. Unfortunately, depression is often treatment-resistant, making managing it difficult and curing it next to impossible. Something that could help — deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
What Is Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression is a noninvasive treatment that utilizes magnetic fields to incite activity in the region of the brain that causes depression. The treatment involves transporting repetitive magnetic pulses to reconnect areas of the brain that aren’t active, unreactive or underactive.
“Neurons that fire together wire together,” Dr. Ryan J. Wakim M.D., Co-Founder and CMO of Comprehensive Care Advisors explains to Parentology.
Though the biology of why TMS works isn’t completely understood, the theory is that repetitive electromagnetic pulses activate parts of the brain with diminished activity due to depression. The stimulation alters the way in which the brain works and seems to ease symptoms of depression.
TMS Versus Medication
According to Wakim, approximately one-third of the depression population are considered treatment-resistant depressed. Those patients often try myriad prescriptions, but with each new medication, the chance of recovery grows slimmer.
“[The chance of recovery for] med trial one is only 27%,” Wakim says. “Med two is 22%. Med three is 16%. If you’ve tried up to four medications, you have a 6.9% chance of recovery.”
According to Wakim, most patients never make it up to medication five. “By med four… about 40% of those at number four have dropped out because of side effects.” Wakim says patients using TMS often find it 10 times more effective than medication.
The TMS procedure was approved by the FDA in 2008 and in many states both insurance and Medicaid cover its use. TMS has a 45% remission rate, meaning patients who undergo the therapy report complete recovery in the months and years following treatment.
When asked about whether or not the treatment is safe for children, Wakim tells Parentology that while it hasn’t yet received FDA approval, it’s being studied in adolescents and some children aged 12 and up. A fair amount of data indicates approval for use with this age group is in the not-too-distant future.
“Reports indicate that TMS achieves similar outcomes for children [as adults], but because it is off-label, we don’t have exact stats. However, I have heard that the results are even better than in adults, if not similar,” Wakim says.
“It’s a game-changer,” he continues of this therapy with no side effects. His take, “This is the future not just of mental health, but brain health.”