For people who struggle with treatment resistant major depressive disorder (TR-MDD) there is good news. While previous studies validated that short-term symptom relief is provided by TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, long term symptom reduction was in question. Now, the results of a year long research study indicate that TR-MDD symptom relief through TMS is durable over time.
“This is great news for our field and for the millions of patients who suffer from depression and do not respond well to medications,” said Dr. Mark George, a TMS researcher since 1994.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment is administered by placing an electromagnet on a person’s scalp. Short, repetitive pulses from the electromagnet are directed to the patient’s limbic system. This system contains brain structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus which have an important role in regulating the individual’s moods.
The electromagnetic pulses are highly effective because they can travel into the brain without being distorted by skin and bone. Once they reach the limbic areas, the TMS pulses stimulate the neurons there, creating neuro-chemical changes. Mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are released.
The Year-Long Study
The research volunteers received a standard TMS treatment protocol of daily TMS adminstration over a four to six week time period, depending on their individual needs.
- The research participants had a primary diagnosis of unipolar, major depressive disorder with no psychotic symptoms. About 67 percent of the study subjects were women.
- Researchers assessed 307 depressed patients. After acute TMS treatment 62 percent reported an improvement in symptoms, and 41 percent experienced complete remission. Of these, 257 entered into a year long follow-up study.
- Those joining the follow-up study were tapered off the acute TMS intervention and were then observed for the next 52 weeks.
- Researchers took outcome measurements at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.
- At 52 weeks, 68 percent of the study subjects indicated an improvement in symptoms, while 45 percent reported complete remission. Maintenance during the 52 weeks included prescriptions for antidepressants, and participants had access to TMS for recurring symptoms.
“I think this will really be impressive for confirming the long-term durability of this effect to potential payers. This is exciting times for psychiatrists and patients, who have a new treatment option to pursue,” said a study investigator. “The durability…demonstrated by this robust, real-world study is remarkable, as it’s not typical to see long-term benefit in patients who have treatment-resistant forms of depression.”
If you are looking for transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy in the Chicago area consider TMS Chicago.