Transcranial magnetic stimulation, commonly referred to as TMS, was developed over 40 years ago but continues to gain popularity since being FDA-approved for a number of mental health conditions — including major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.
The procedure is non-invasive and avoids the use of drugs, which can cause a wide range of unwanted side effects in depression patients. It involves placing an electromagnetic coil on top of the patient’s head, sending magnetic pulses that stimulate the brain and neuronal activity.
Since the procedure requires repetitive magnetic pulses, it’s often referred to as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation or rTMS. The magnetic pulses activate certain areas of the brain that are responsible for mood and behavior, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Ever since the first TMS device was invented, the technology surrounding the procedure has improved greatly. Deep TMS is a product of those technological advancements and it’s making transcranial magnetic stimulation more effective than ever before with deeper penetration.
Deep TMS utilizes a special type of coil called an H-coil, which is developed and manufactured by Brainsway. With a broader and deeper stimulation depth, the H coils allow for a more intense electric field as far as 4cm below the surface of the scalp — compared to the traditional 2.5cm.
Deeper penetration also ensures that more neurons are affected by the magnetic pulses. The H-1 coils, in particular, are designed to target the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex structures, which play an important role in mood management and the brain’s reward system.
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation has been FDA-approved for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In fact, it’s one of the most popular and effective treatments for those living with treatment-resistant depression that doesn’t respond to medication or therapy.
It’s also FDA-approved for nicotine addictions (including smoking, vaping, and chewing/dip) and chronic anxiety. Other ‘off-label’ conditions that Deep TMS can help treat include post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, migraines, headaches, substance abuse disorders, and more.
At the end of the day, Deep TMS is designed to help reduce depressive symptoms and normalize brain or neuronal activity. It’s best utilized when medication or therapy isn’t providing the best results — or if your body isn’t responding well to the many side effects of medication.
Although the Deep TMS procedure sounds super complex and scary, it’s far from it. In fact, it’s a non-invasive procedure that requires wearing a special helmet for just 20 minutes per session. You’re awake the entire time, it doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia, and it doesn’t inflict pain.
Patients are generally directed to undergo 20-minute sessions every day from Monday to Friday for 4-6 weeks. You can expect to undergo approximately 30 sessions, as well as six tapering sessions after the initial series. Booster TMS sessions are available, but not always required.
Deep TMS is done on an outpatient basis, which means you’re free to leave the office once the procedure is done. Although you don’t need someone to drive you home after the procedure, many people choose to have a driver until they get used to the feeling and overall procedure.
You should expect the initial treatment to take a little longer than 20 minutes. Your doctor will need to determine where to place the coils and what the best dose is for your brain. The best dose is determined by finding your motor threshold, which is when your hands or fingers twitch.
During the treatment, you’ll be placed in a comfortable, welcoming treatment room. You’ll sit in a comfortable chair and be able to read, listen to music, or watch television. Although you need to wear a helmet the entire time, it generally only results in minor scalp discomfort during and after.
One of the benefits of Deep TMS, when compared to other brain stimulation techniques for depression, is the lack of side effects experienced by the patient during and after treatment. Being a non-invasive treatment, it’s much more safe and effective than most procedures today.
For example, vagus nerve stimulation and deep brain stimulation require the implantation of electrodes and even surgery in some cases. In addition to that, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) requires sedation and anesthesia, as well as commonly causing seizures in some cases.
With that said, Deep TMS isn’t perfect. Here are some of the side effects patients might experience during Deep TMS treatment:
Before starting Deep TMS treatment, notify your doctor if you’re pregnant, you have any metal or implanted medical devices in your body, you’re on medication, have a history of seizures, you have brain damage, you have frequent headaches, or if this isn’t your first TMS treatment.
The good news is these side effects are rare and generally won’t impact your quality of life. In fact, patients are able to return to their normal daily activities immediately after the Deep TMS session comes to an end. Like we mentioned above, it’s a non-invasive treatment option.
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation is growing to be one of the safest and most effective treatments for those with depression symptoms and OCD — especially with the recent advancements in technology. The procedure is only getting better and more accurate over time.
At Colorado Recovery Solutions, we’re dedicated to helping each patient find relief in their life. We believe your story isn’t over and you have so much left to live for. If depression or other mental health conditions are holding you back in life, our Deep TMS treatment can help.
If you’d like to learn more about deep transcranial magnetic stimulation or you’d like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Johnson, contact Colorado Recovery Solutions today. We can’t wait to help you get the most out of your life!