Q: Is TMS effective?
A: Yes. Numerous studies have proven TMS to be more effective than medication for treating depression in patients who have had an inadequate response to one or more antidepressants. While response and remission rates can vary, a course of TMS treatment can keep patients symptom-free for up to a year or more.
Q: What happens during my first TMS session?
A: This visit typically lasts 90 minutes. You doctor will follow this protocol:
- We first need to find the best part of your brain to stimulate and the right amount of energy to give you.
- We will place a magnetic coil on your scalp on the front of your head and adjust the dose.
- You will hear a clicking sound and feel tapping on your scalp.
- You will then receive your first treatment.
The doctor will adjust the dose so it will give just enough energy so that your right-hand twitches (motor threshold). Everyone has a different motor threshold, so we adjust the levels so that each person gets the amount that they need.
Q: What happens during my subsequent TMS sessions?
After your first treatment, we will know how strong of a dose to use and the proper coil target. Once the coil is placed on the correct part of your scalp, the TMS machine will give a series of pulses to your head. You will be awake and alert during the treatment. Each of these follow-up visits typically last 3-9 minutes but can last 30-45 minutes in certain cases.
Q: Who will administer my TMS treatment?
A: TMS is administered by trained technicians under the supervision of attending physicians from the Department of Psychiatry at Mass General. These technicians have followed an internal training and certification process under the supervision of the director of the TMS Clinical Service.
Q: How many TMS sessions will I be getting?
A: Most patients get treatment every day for five days over a six-week period, with six addition taper sessions (for a total of 36 treatment sessions). However, some patients need more than 36 treatments to get the best results. Your doctor will determine the appropriate number of sessions for you.
Q: Are there any side effects?
A: As a non-invasive procedure using magnetic pulses, TMS is mostly free from side effects, much like an MRI. The most common side effects include scalp discomfort and headaches, but these usually improve shortly after the treatment session is finished.
There is also a rare risk of seizure. However, the risk of seizure is thoroughly evaluated and discussed during your initial consultation.
Q: Does TMS hurt?
A: No. While some TMS patients sometimes report mild headaches and scalp discomfort after the first treatment, any minor discomfort usually subsides after a few sessions. Since TMS is non-convulsive and non-invasive, the only thing you might feel is a small tap on your head.