Saturday, December 06, 2008

Amazing New Treatment Approved to Treat Depression
It really can be amazing! I know personally. . . .

What is it? The US Food and Drug Administration has now approved the use of a technique that uses strong magnets for "treatment resistant" major depression. This is great news for anyone who has not responded to at least two antidepressant trials and who would prefer not to be treated with the main alternative, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy or "shock treatments"), which can damage memory and carries some additional risks.

The new treatment is TMS or transcranial magnetic stimulation. It involves placing a device that generates a strong but precise magnetic field against a particular site on the left side of the skull, and delivering magnetic pulses for 20 minutes, five days a week for two to four weeks. The patient is conscious during the procedure, which can be done in a psychiatrist's office. What does the patient feel? Not a thing. What side effects are there? None reported at all except occasional mild headaches that respond to over-the-counter meds. No memory loss!

TMS will soon become more widely available, which I feel is fabulous news. You see, TMS completely turned my life around -- after many years of requiring a series of ECT treatments when a suicidal depression struck every few months, I was allowed to try the experimental TMS. Now, I'm technically diagnosed as bipolar, though I mainly experience depression, so my TMS targeted a different area of the brain, this one on the right side. Nonetheless, my treatment was a resounding success, as the newly-approved one has now been for many with depression in clinical trials. By the second week of treatments, the profound depression lifted and I was merely very depressed, but functional. By the end of week four of the five-minute treatments I was well! Really well -- back to baseline.

Now I needed to repeat this four-week series every few months for a couple of years as the depression returned, but the intervals between series gradually grew longer. And I'm delighted to report that I have not needed TMS (or ECT) for over two years! I've had no serious depression symptoms, and I've gotten my life back after 14 years of being unable to work or have kids. I wrote a book last year (see profile), I published it this spring and have been promoting it and, most important, my husband and I adopted a child this summer. Obviously I'm a huge TMS fan.

I know that no treatment works for everyone, but I believe that having more alternatives to try is the key for those of us who've been through every drug trial and don't know where to turn. This is great news.

8 comments:

Van said...

I find this interesting, especially for individuals who did not have any luck with medication...

BUT...

I have to ask how safe is this? EMF exposure has links to leukemia, brain tumors, and male breast cancer (cancer.gov) Maybe the length of treatment wouldn't be enough to expose one the levels that would elevate the risk, but still..


Best,
Van
http://vansantos.com

Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. said...

Hi Van,
Very good question... I don't know whether the exposures are anywhere close to comparable. I'll have to check in to this. Anybody else out there familiar with this issue?

Thanks for reading!
-- Beth

Van said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I will have some time free tomorrow to look into this. I'll let you know what I find.

Best,
Van
http://vansantos.com

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Delirious said...

Hello Elizabeth...

I contacted UPenn (I'm near Philadelphia) and they said I would have to pay out of pocket.

Did you also?

Or did you get to do a TMS study?

Anonymous said...

Hi Delirious,

Sorry to hear the clinic wants you to pay out-of-pocket! Is this because insurers are not yet covering this? I was fortunate enough to be in a TMS trial so, while I was being experimented on, I did not have to pay anything. I hope you can find another place to get the treatments. Good luck.

Best,
Beth

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