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TMS for depression

TMS is an outpatient treatment for depression that:

  • Is FDA-cleared for adults with depressive disorders
  • Requires 5 sessions performed each week for 4-6 weeks
  • Takes about 17-30 minutes each session
  • Is noninvasive

If your depression hasn't responded to conventional treatment, TMS may benefit you. Request an appointment online or call 913-588-1227 for an evaluation.

New Procedure Provides Relief from Symptoms of Depression

A new treatment for depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) offers people in the Kansas City region new hope

People with depression have new hope when conventional treatments fail. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses electromagnets to generate magnetic pulses that stimulate underactive parts of the brain and improve symptoms of depression.

"Functional scans show the part of the brain that helps us make decisions and execute plans is underactive in those with depression," says Angela K. Mayorga, MD, psychiatrist at The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City. "TMS specifically targets this area of the brain."

Dr. Mayorga leads the psychiatry and behavioral health team of expert providers who are trained and certified to perform NeuroStar® TMS Therapy. The treatment is recommended for people who have tried different therapies and antidepressant medications in their current episode of depression, and have seen little change. It can be safely used with or without antidepressants.

"If you're feeling depressed and you've tried different medications that haven't worked on their own or you aren't tolerating them, TMS may be an option," says Dr. Mayorga.

How it works

People interested in TMS therapy must first have an initial evaluation to see if they're a candidate for the procedure. Once a medical professional confirms the treatment is right for them, a one-time motor threshold test is performed to determine how much energy should be delivered to the brain.

"We place a magnetic coil on the scalp where muscle movement is controlled in the brain. We see the level of energy needed to make their right thumb twitch," says Dr. Mayorga. "This allows us to calculate the right treatment dose to deliver to the brain each time."

Once a patient begins TMS, they relax in a seated position as an electromagnetic coil is properly placed on their scalp. This coil delivers magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain. This precise, targeted stimulation re-engages underactive areas of the brain that are thought to be responsible for depression symptoms.

Typically, a series of 5 sessions performed each week for 4-6 weeks is recommended for best results. As patients progress through TMS therapy, they rate their level of depression each week. This helps the physician gauge the patient's progress.

Expert care team

At The University of Kansas Health System, TMS therapy is provided by an expert team of psychiatric and behavioral health specialists – the largest, most preferred practice of its type in Kansas. The team includes board-certified and Spanish-speaking specialists.

Learn more about our psychiatric and behavioral health services.

Feeling the difference

Dr. Mayorga says the initial results of TMS therapy are largely positive.

"At the end of a 6-week treatment, about 62% of patients said their symptoms were better, and 42% said their depression was in remission," says Dr. Mayorga. "After 1 year, nearly 60% of patients still had a good response and 37% were in remission."

Dr. Mayorga says patients often tell her TMS has helped them feel calmer and happier, and they have more clarity. But she cautions that while TMS can help many people, it doesn't work for everyone.

"Studies show TMS patients can keep depression in remission for up to a year, but some patients relapse and need a second course," she says. "TMS also doesn't work as well for those suffering from comorbid disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The improvement rate could be lower for these patients."

Currently, TMS therapy is FDA-cleared for major depressive disorders. However, studies are underway to determine if TMS could treat other disorders, such as addiction, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Another tool in the toolbox

There are limited side effects with TMS, including minor headaches and irritation at the treatment site. There's no recovery time needed, and you can return to normal activities after each procedure. Also, TMS does not result in memory loss like some other treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy.

"TMS is an investment in time but there are minimal side effects and no memory loss. You drive to the physician's office for treatment and then you can go home or to work," says Dr. Mayorga. "It's another tool in the toolbox to help us treat depression."