Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Offers Hope for Treatment-Resistant Depression

princeton.eduIn December of 2012, Stephanie S. was taking 300 mgs of Zoloft, 300 mgs of Wellbutrin, 300 mgs of Desyrel, 200 mgs of Risperdal, and 8 mgs of Xanax, but was as depressed as she has ever been. She had also gained 100 pounds as a side-effect of all the medications. Having tried a total of 10 different kinds of drugs with no success, her doctor recommended transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), non-invasive procedure that stimulates nerve cells in the brain with short magnetic pulses. A large electromagnetic coil is placed against the scalp which generates focused pulses that pass through the skull and stimulate the cerebral cortex of the brain, a region that regulates mood. The procedure was approved by the FDA in 2008.

She didn’t feel any difference after 11 treatments, but she can vividly remember the morning after her 12th treatment. She explained:

I woke up … I mean WOKE UP!! I felt so light, instead of feeling weighed down. The sun was brighter. My overall feeling was JOY. This was unfamiliar to me, and I loved it. I came downstairs grinning from ear to ear and just looked at my husband. He knew! I just threw my arms around his neck and laughed. The feeling was indescribable. It was NIRVANA!! I felt better than I had felt before my breakdown. It was MAGICAL! I think that was the first time in my life that I felt pure joy!

She continued and finished the 30 treatments.

Dr. Kira Stein, M.D., board certified psychiatrist and medical director of West Coast TMS Institute in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, is excited about the success she’s had in treating her patients with TMS. She usually does five sessions a week, for a total of 30 sessions; the entire procedure lasts about six to eight weeks, though some patients may need more treatment to respond.

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