Frequently Asked Questions

Most trials indicate that patients experience improvement by the 4th week of treatment. However, some patients may experience improvement before or after the 4th week.

The TMS technician will note any side effects the patient experienced during the treatment. Because there is no sedation or anesthesia, patients can leave immediately after their treatment and resume normal activities including driving.

Patients are seated comfortably in a chair and will feel a tapping sensation on their scalp during the treatment. Patients also hear a “clicking” noise. To prevent discomfort from the clicking noise, earplugs should be worn (and are provided). However, the risk of any permanent hearing loss is extremely low.

While the overall efficacy of TMS is still being investigated, clinical studies seem to indicate that 67% of patients have a good response to TMS and that 45% of patients with a good response maintain remission 12 months after treatment. Those who do have recurrence of their depressive symptoms usually respond to repeat or “maintenance” sessions of TMS.

No, these treatments work on very different principles. The main difference is that ECT causes a generalized seizure and this is repeated usually on alternating days for several weeks. While ECT is overall more effective in treating depression, it is also associated with significant side effects including memory loss (which is usually sort-term but can be longer lasting). ECT also requires the patient to be under anesthesia which carries its own risks. Because of the confusion that usually occurs after ECT, patients undergoing ECT must have someone to care for them after their treatment. TMS patients can receive their treatment and return to their usual activities, including driving, immediately after their treatment.

Most other medications can also be taken before, during and after a course of TMS. There are some medications that can increase the seizure risk with TMS and these should be discussed with your TMS physician. However, it is rare that a medication would preclude a patient from getting treatment with TMS.

While it is not known whether taking antidepressants during or after TMS treatment increases the likelihood of treatment success, TMS trials have regularly included patients taking antidepressant medications. There is no indication that there is any safety risk to patients who take antidepressants before, during or after treatment with TMS.

No. Multiple clinical trials have not shown any increase in memory loss with TMS treatment. This is an important difference from ECT where there is a risk of memory loss.

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