Who is a Candidate for TMS Therapy for Depression?

TMS Therapy Boston

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 6.7% of all adults in the United States experienced a major depressive episode in 2016. Depression is now considered to be the most common mental illness in the country, which has led to significant advances in the pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic treatments available for major depressive disorder.

In 2008, a new kind of depression therapy using non-invasive brain stimulation called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy was FDA-approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder. This non-invasive therapy uses magnetic pulses to target the mood centers of the brain, reducing the symptoms of a major depressive episode without medication or psychotherapy. It’s become increasingly common for psychiatrists to offer this treatment for patients struggling with depression. But who can benefit from TMS therapy?

Patients Wishing To Avoid Medication

Antidepressants frequently come with side effects, which may include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, headaches, insomnia, drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, increased anxiety, and irritability. These are nothing to shrug at– they can drastically impact a patient’s quality of life.

Many patients find their antidepressant to be effective, but feel frustrated with the side effects of medication, and could benefit from other options. TMS therapy may be a great alternative.

Patients Suffering From Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD)

The two most commonly prescribed treatments for depression today are psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) and drug therapy with antidepressant medications. Beyond an understandable wish to avoid the side effects associated with medication, many patients may also find that medication just isn’t effective for them. It’s also common for patients to find that talk therapy alone isn’t enough to achieve complete remission from depression.  Psychiatrists will often recommend a combination of talk therapy and medication, especially when one has shown signs of being ineffective, but some patients still don’t respond to this treatment plan.

When a patient does not respond to traditional treatments for depression, they may be said to have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Though there’s no single clinical definition for TRD yet, many psychiatrists and researchers would apply this diagnosis when the patient has tried two different antidepressants from different classes and has not responded to either.  Some may not diagnose TRD until the patient has tried four medications.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation can be particularly helpful for patients with TRD. In 2012, a study found that 37% of patients who had tried other kinds of antidepressant treatment with no results were able to achieve remission after transcranial magnetic stimulation. Since stimulation using TMS therapy works in a completely different way than medication or psychotherapy, it be effective for TRD patients.

Patients with Health Insurance

Insurance will very often fully cover TMS therapy for individuals with TRD. If a patient has tried at least four different antidepressant medications in the past, and does not also have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or psychosis, then they will usually be considered eligible to have their TMS therapy fully covered by their insurance company. In these cases and others, TMS therapy can be fully covered by insurance companies in Massachusetts, including Medicare and MassHealth. At Dignity Brain Health, we accept all major insurance plans in Massachusetts.

A patient should always speak with their TMS therapy provider about insurance coverage, and check with their insurance plan, before beginning treatment. It is quite common now to arrange a special agreement with insurance companies for full or partial coverage.

Even if a patient does not qualify for insurance coverage, we offer many affordable options for paying out-of-pocket.  Feel free to contact us online or call us at (617) 996-7166 to talk to our staff about pricing, insurance, and your options when it comes to paying for TMS therapy.

Who Isn’t a Candidate for TMS Therapy

Though TMS therapy is a very good option for many people struggling with depression, it’s not recommended for people who have any type of metal implant in their head, or for people with a history of seizure disorders. At Dignity Brain Health, we recommend TMS therapy for pregnant women only in exceptional cases, as there could be a potential risk to the unborn child if the mother suffers a seizure during treatment (this is extremely rare, but it’s still a risk).

Although TMS therapy is not right for all patients, there are a great deal who can benefit from this treatment and achieve remission from depression symptoms.

Dignity Brain Health Is Here To Help.

If you have any questions about depression, TMS therapy, your symptoms, or any potential treatments you’ve heard of, know that you can contact our caring and attentive staff at Dignity Brain Health. We’re here to answer questions, help with treatment, and most importantly, serve as a support system for your depression treatment.

Omar Haque