TMS, Alternative Treatment for Severe Depression

If you have been prescribed TMS Treatment, it is important to understand what you can expect during the procedure. On treatment days, you can perform normal daily activities prior to treatment, including driving to the psychiatrist’s office. Before beginning treatment, your psychiatrist will decide whether you need to discontinue or continue taking any current antidepressant medications.

The First Treatment Session
Your first treatment with the NeuroStar system could last up to an hour and a half. You will be provided and asked to wear protective earplugs, as the system emits a tapping sound during operation.

Your psychiatrist will first perform a test to identify your motor threshold. The motor threshold is the amount of magnetic field strength applied that results in an involuntary movement of your right thumb. This test is important because it identifies the magnetic field strength which will be used in your treatment. This field strength is customized for each patient to deliver the correct treatment dose.

After this initial procedure, the doctor will determine the place on the head where the TMS treatment will be applied and the coil will be moved to that location. The physician will then administer TMS Therapy over a 40-minute period. In 30-second intervals, the device will deliver rapid “pulses” of the magnetic fields which will feel like a tapping sensation on your scalp. Some patients find this tapping to be uncomfortable. If so, your physician may be able to make adjustments to reduce this discomfort. During the 40-minute treatment session, you can relax in the treatment chair. You can also speak with the system operator whenever necessary. After the treatment session, you can immediately return to your normal routine, including driving.

To see a demonstration of this procedure, ask your psychiatrist for a copy of the NeuroStar TMS Therapy Patient Information Video or visit www.neurostartms.com. For additional information on the benefits and risks of NeuroStar TMS Therapy, your doctor can provide you with the Depression Patient’s Manual for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation with the NeuroStar TMS Therapy System.

Subsequent Treatment Sessions
Most future treatment sessions will last approximately 40 minutes; however, your psychiatrist may periodically repeat the motor threshold test. This test will increase the time for that particular treatment session.

What to Expect from NeuroStar TMS Therapy
During or after treatment you may experience headache or discomfort at the site of stimulation. These are common side effects which often improve as further treatment sessions are administered. If necessary, you can treat this discomfort with an over-the-counter analgesic. If these side effects persist, your doctor can reduce the strength of the magnetic field pulses being administered, in order to make treatment more comfortable.

In clinical trials, most patients who benefitted from NeuroStar TMS Therapy experienced results by the fourth week of treatment. Some patients may experience results in less time, while others may take longer. You should discuss your depression symptoms with your physician throughout the treatment course and, if symptoms persist, consider other antidepressant options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can NeuroStar TMS Therapy cause brain tumors?
No. NeuroStar TMS Therapy uses the same technology as MRI machines, which have been used in tens of millions of patients around the world and have not been shown to cause tumors. The amount of magnetic field exposure for a full course of NeuroStar TMS Therapy is a small fraction of just one scan with an MRI.

What are the potential risks of NeuroStar TMS Therapy?
The most commonly reported side effect related to treatment was scalp discomfort during treatment. This side effect was generally mild to moderate, and occurred less frequently after the first week of treatment. Less than 5% of patients treated with NeuroStar TMS Therapy discontinued treatment due to side effects.

There is a small risk of a seizure occurring. In the NeuroStar clinical trials, over 10,000 TMS treatments were safely administered with no occurrence of seizures. As an additional measure of safety, the NeuroStar TMS Therapy system has a built-in mechanism to identify TMS treatments that are beyond established safety guidelines, preventing them from accidentally occurring.

Not all patients will benefit from NeuroStar TMS Therapy. Patients should be carefully monitored for worsening symptoms, signs or symptoms of suicidal behavior and/or unusual behavior. Families and caregivers should also be aware of the need to observe patients and notify their treatment provider if symptoms worsen.

Is NeuroStar TMS Therapy like alternative therapies that use regular magnets?
No. There are four main differences between the magnet used in NeuroStar TMS Therapy and the regular magnets used in alternative therapies. First, regular magnets are typically weak in field strength, while the magnet used in NeuroStar TMS Therapy is much stronger and the same as those used in MRI machines. Second, alternative therapy magnets create magnetic fields which do not move. The magnet used in NeuroStar TMS Therapy is pulsed, which causes the magnetic fields to move rapidly. This rapid magnetic field movement is what stimulates brain cells. Third, no scientific evidence exists to support the therapeutic benefit of regular magnets in the treatment of depression, while rigorous clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of NeuroStar TMS Therapy. Finally, NeuroStar TMS Therapy is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while regular magnets are not.

Is NeuroStar TMS Therapy like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?
No. NeuroStar TMS Therapy is an outpatient procedure which, unlike electroconvulsive therapy, does not require anesthesia, sedation or the production of a convulsion. Also different from ECT, NeuroStar TMS Therapy does not result in adverse effects on memory or concentration.

How much does NeuroStar TMS Therapy cost and will my insurance cover it?
The cost of NeuroStar TMS Therapy is determined by your physician. You should discuss any financial or insurance-related questions with your doctor.



  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a novel treatment for depression that has not responded to standard medications. It is approved by the Food & Drug Administration.
  • TMS does not require any sedation or use of any injections.
  • Magnetic pulses are delivered to the brain through the skull from a coil that is placed on the left frontal area of the head.
  • The magnetic pulses convert into electric current that goes through the brain and re-sets the polarization of the neurons to normalize functioning and improve mood.
  • Each session lasts about 45 to 60 minutes and the patient is fully awake and is able to resume normal duties after the session.
  • Most common immediate side effects are discomfort in the area of the stimulation, and/or headache that is treatable with over the counter analgesics.
  • Financing is available.
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