Drug-Free Option Could Help Treat Depression

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A staggering 50% of patients treated for depression are resistant to traditional medication.

A non-invasive, drug-free option called deep TMS is helping give some patients their lives back, and new research indicates for some patients, individualized treatment plans may soon make this an even more effective option.

Kristi Miller has struggled with anxiety and depression since she was 13.

“I would have this intense feeling in my chest like it was so tight and I couldn’t breathe,” Miller said.

The busy teacher has tried more than 30 anti-depressant medications but over time they would stop working.

“Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Effexor,” Miller listed.

Doctor Sandeep Vaishnavi, MD, neuropsychiatrist and medical director of the Brain Stimulation Service at Mindpath Care Centers at Carolina Partners, says newer options like deep TMS or transcranial magnetic stimulation can be very effective.

Vaishnavi told Ivanhoe, “What this technology is doing is that it’s stimulating the brain using these magnetic pulses.”

He says that causes the networks in the brain to change over time.

“We want to make that cognitive control network, the pre-frontal cortex, we want it to be more efficient so it can modulate the emotional brain,” Vaishnavi said.

The patient is fitted with Brainsway’s deep TMS helmet that sends magnetic pulses to the brain.

The patient undergoes a 20-minute session where they feel a light tapping on the side of their head.

Results have been dramatic: a recent study found that only 11 percent went into remission with medication alone.

“But with TMS and medications it was 60 percent,” Vaishnavi explained.
Miller says she felt a difference after the very first session.

“It was like all the colors in the sky were just brighter,” Miller described.

Providing a brighter future in the battle against depression.

The patient generally undergoes a series of 36 sessions in combination with medication and or therapy. Doctors say there’s a very small risk of seizures but it’s less than one in 30,000 sessions. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association guidelines suggest TMS after one medication failure. Deep TMS has also been FDA approved to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. We’re told most insurance companies cover the full 36 sessions.

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Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Janna Ross, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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