What to Expect
The first step in the TMS treatment process is determining whether or not TMS is an appropriate treatment for you. This is done in a consultation with your psychiatrist, who will review your symptoms, treatment history, and possible treatment options. When you contact the Southern California TMS Center, our staff will schedule this evaluation, which will last about an hour and should be covered by most insurance.
“While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that depression is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters.”
Your first treatment session
If TMS is right for you, an initial treatment session will be scheduled. At this first visit, which may last over an hour, your Psychiatrist will determine the appropriate placement and energy settings of the Neurostar treatment coil. Placement of the treatment coil and the strength of the magnetic field are important factors in successful TMS treatment. In order to do this, a test is done to determine what is called the motor threshold. A magnetic pulse will be repeatedly given to find the strength that is just enough to result in a movement of your right thumb. From there, the coil is moved forward to a specific area over the left frontal lobe, and the energy levels on the Neurostar TMS machine are increased 20%.
The actual treatment session lasts 37 and one half minutes. As you sit reclined, awake and alert, the Neurostar TMS System delivers 40 rapid MRI strength magnetic pulses over 4 seconds. The pulses make a loud clicking sound, and ear protection or ear plugs are required. The pulses feel like a tapping on the scalp but without the sensation of anything touching the skin. The same 4 second sequence is repeated 75 times every thirty seconds. During the session you can watch television, listen to music, or simply sit back and relax.
After the procedure
After the treatment, you can drive and resume your normal day. TMS is non-invasive, meaning it does not involve surgery, and also non-systemic, meaning no drugs are used, and therefore no drug side effects. Typical TMS side effects are irritation or discomfort at the treatment site, or headache, and are usually mild.
Treatment sessions are then repeated by our trained TMS staff each day using the settings initially determined by your Psychiatrist. A usual course of treatment involves sessions 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks, although this can vary depending on a patient’s response to treatment. A tapering set of treatments is sometimes used to ensure your improvement. As you progress through your therapy, your Psychiatrist, and the TMS Staff will regularly assess your progress and determine the eventual number of treatments.