A New FDA-Approved Depression Treatment: TMS

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Jannel Jump suffered her first major episode of depression during her freshman year of college in 1979.

“I drove home and told my father I couldn’t handle it.” she remembers.  “Basically I slept for 3 days solid, just getting up for meals and not doing anything but sleeping. It was very scary, it was very scary for my parents too.”

Jannel says by taking some time off of school and resting, she gradually felt better but another episode struck in 1984. With child care service at home, she says watching a few children was overwhelming. She started taking anti-depressants but suffered another serious episode in 2007.

“I was at the point where I said you have to commit me or admit me into the hospital, she says. “Run every test you need to run because something needs to be done because life isn’t worth living like this, this isn’t living life, this is just existing.”

She tried several different anti-depressant medications and combinations of medications. She says she felt somewhat better but still felt she wasn’t living up to her potential and describes having had a feeling of numbness.

Professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Loyola University Medical Center, Dr. Murali Rao suggested Jannel try a new form of depression therapy called TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. TMS is a procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. He says, much like a computer, TMS may be helping reboot the circuitry in the brain.

“In depressed individuals,” Dr. Rao says. “The circuitry has been found not functioning optimally.  We modulate the neuro-circuitry by this procedure. ”

Dr. Rao suggests the FDA approved treatment as an option for patients who don’t respond well to at least one completed trial of anti-depressant medication. He says that because TMS is not yet covered by insurance in the state of Illinois, this non-invasive procedure is still a difficult choice for patients from a financial perspective.

“A depressed individual is not the best decision maker,” says Dr. Rao. “We have found is we bring the family members and they are keenly aware of this person’s potential and what this person has done. They want him or her to feel well after carefully weighing in  the cost of depression versus cost of treatment.”

With more than 7% of the population suffering from major depression and nearly 15-20% with some form of depression, he is happy to offer a treatment to people whose medications seem to fall short. He says TMS could wipe out depression symptoms almost completely.

“Even among those who get treatment for depression,” explains Dr. Rao, “those who totally recover from depression happen to be only 1/3 of the treated patients with the existing modality of treatments mainly consisting of medications.
Our job is to tell them all of the available options for them in order for them to make a decision.”

Jannel says after after several TMS sessions she started to feel better than she’s ever felt in her life.

“I don’t remember ever feeling as good as I do now.” Jannel says. “I enjoy being with my husband, we like going hiking.  I got a new puppy back at Christmas.  It’s good to enjoy life again and enjoy being with people.  I think it`s important to realize there is hope out there, you don’t have to stay in that state of depression, there are options to help you get through that.”

TMS is a relatively new treatment and more studies are underway to determine it’s effectiveness and long term benefits.

For more information on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, click here or try this link for some TMS study results

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