Why You May Want to Consider TMS Therapy to Fight Depression
What is TMS?
TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, is a safe and effective treatment for a variety of conditions. To deliver TMS treatment, a magnetic coil, placed lightly against the scalp, produces electrical currents which activate targeted regions of the brain. Patients sit comfortably during treatment, which is fast, painless and non-invasive.
What is TMS Therapy for Depression?
The most common target of TMS treatment is depression. Magnetic therapy for depression dates back to the 1980s. Increasing evidence of TMS effectiveness, especially the TMS depression success rate, has recently led to a much wider availability of TMS therapy. A full course of TMS therapy consists of around 30 sessions at a TMS clinic, each visit taking 30-60 minutes.
How Does TMS Therapy Work?
TMS therapy works by modifying the pattern of electrical currents in brain regions responsible for mood. The precise effects depend on the areas targeted, and the number, frequency, and intensity of magnetic pulses. The magnetic field can be altered to either activate or subdue relevant neural circuits, which then has a flow-on effect in connected areas.
Magnetic brain treatment also works through the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, a cornerstone of how the brain learns, adapts and recovers.
During prolonged depression, low mood and negative thinking reinforce the circuits that generate those symptoms. At the same time, lack of activity weakens the circuits behind positive emotion. Depression thus becomes written into the brain.
What transcranial magnetic therapy does is induce currents through the dormant circuits to bring them ‘back online’, as well as subduing the overactive negative circuits.
Why TMS Therapy Is Effective?
TMS therapy is effective because it subtly corrects the neural pathways that underlie depression, as well as boosting levels of deficient neurotransmitters. TMS side effects are also minimal, which means that – compared to antidepressants – fewer patients need to stop treatment before it has a chance to work.
What Are the Side Effects of TMS?
TMS therapy is non-invasive, which means that no chemicals or instruments enter the body. Unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), TMS also does not involve sedation or provoking a seizure. Side effects of TMS are usually mild, fading after a session and decreasing with additional sessions.
Common side effects
- Scalp discomfort
- Tingling, or twitching of facial muscles
Serious side effects
Serious TMS side effects are rare but may include:
- Mania (for patients with bipolar disorder)
- Hearing loss (hence ear protection is used during treatment)
Before TMS therapy, patients are thoroughly evaluated to minimise the risk of side effects.
How Long Does TMS Treatment Last?
After a full course of TMS treatment, most patients will experience improved symptoms for 6-12 months. One study of patients who completed TMS depression treatment showed that a year later, 68% were still improved, and 45% had no symptoms.
Another study was even more encouraging, with almost two thirds of patients showing no symptoms of depression a full year after treatment. Note also that these patients have been unsuccessful with at least two antidepressants. 
Is TMS Therapy Covered by Medicare?
To be eligible for an acute course of up to 35 TMS treatments, patients must:
- Be an adult (18+) diagnosed with major depression
- Have tried two different classes of antidepressant medication without satisfactory improvement
- Have undertaken psychological therapy
- Have not received rTMS therapy previously
To be eligible for a maintenance course of up to 15 TMS treatments, patients must:
- Have responded positively to an initial course of Medicare funded TMS treatment
- Have been in remission for four months following treatment but have since relapsed
- Have not had TMS therapy for depression in the last 4 months
How to Prepare for TMS Therapy
You will have a psychiatrist assessment to ensure that TMS treatment is a safe and appropriate option for you.
You should tell your doctor if you:
- are pregnant or planning to be
- have any medical devices or metal objects in your body
What to Expect From TMS Therapy
TMS is performed in a NeuroCentrix TMS clinic. Sessions last around 40 minutes and are usually each weekday for 4-6 weeks.
During each session, you will sit in a reclining chair and wear earplugs.
The first session is little longer since it also involves identifying the right dose and location of magnetic energy. An electromagnetic coil will be placed against your head. A loud clicking sound indicates the magnetic pulse. You will also feel a tapping sensation on your forehead. Your doctor will increase the dose until your fingers or hands twitch. This is the ‘motor threshold’ which is a reference point for your correct dose. In later sessions, the dose can be changed according to your response and any side effects.
You will remain awake and alert throughout the session. There may be some scalp discomfort during treatment and for a short time afterward.
After each treatment, you can return to your normal activities, including work and driving.
TMS Long Term Results
TMS treatment provides lasting benefits without the long-term side effects often seen with antidepressants, such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction. Short-term side effects of TMS, such as headache, usually resolve within the first week of treatment.
Studies have shown that a course of TMS therapy usually produces substantial benefit even one year later. Meanwhile no long-term adverse effects have been found.
What Does TMS Cost?
TMS treatment for depression at our TMS clinic typically consists of 20 to 35 sessions delivered as an outpatient over 3 to 6 weeks. Outpatient treatment allows you to stay at home with family and friends during treatment rather than being admitted to hospital.
Following your initial course of TMS therapy, your doctor may recommend maintenance treatment.
TMS treatment costs may be met in full for serving military, DVA, and WorkCover patients upon successful application. After referral to NeuroCentrix, we look after the paperwork and prepare the application on your behalf.
Private treatment is available at $185 per session. However, as of November 2021, Federal Government announced funding to provide access to Medicare-subsidised repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the treatment of medication resistant major depressive disorder. To find out more, speak to our specialist team.
 Dunner DL, Aaronson ST, Sackeim HA, et al. A multisite, naturalistic, observational study of transcranial magnetic stimulation for patients with pharmacoresistant major depressive disorder: Durability of benefit over a 1-year follow-up period. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014;75(12):1394-401.