What is TMS?
TMS is a non-invasive, effective way to stimulate or inhibit the brain to treat mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD. The procedure involves placing an electromagnetic coil on the scalp and delivering a series of magnetic impulses to brain parts associated with specific functions like mood regulation.
What are the side effects of TMS?
TMS is generally very well tolerated. Unlike medication, the systemic side effects are minimal. There is no weight gain or impact on libido. The most common side effects are scalp tenderness and headaches. Unlike ECT, patients are awake throughout and can drive home directly after their treatment. There is no memory impairment. TMS is considered pro-cognitive- it can encourage memory and cognitive functions to work again.
When is TMS used?
If you have depression, a doctor will likely recommend antidepressants and psychotherapy before TMS.
However, you may be a good candidate for TMS if you:
- have used two or more antidepressants without results
- have experienced negative side effects when using antidepressants
What happens when you get TMS?
A TMS technician or TMS physician does the therapy. It’s an outpatient procedure, so it may be done in a medical clinic. If it’s done in a hospital, you won’t need to stay overnight.
Before the procedure, you’ll need to remove items that are sensitive to magnets, like jewellery.
Here’s what you can expect during TMS:
- Your technician will have you wear earplugs to minimize the clicking sound of magnetic impulses. They’ll have you sit in a comfortable chair. You won’t need general anesthesia, and you’ll be awake throughout the treatment.
- If it’s your first session, your technician will measure your head to determine where to place the magnetic coil. They’ll also take other measurements to personalize the settings on the TMS machine. TMS is a very individualised treatment, depending on your scalp dimensions and you motor threshold.
- Your technician will place the coil on the site they want to stimulate, most typically the DorsoLateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC). Next, they’ll start the treatment.
- You’ll hear a clicking sound as the magnetic impulses are released. You’ll also feel a tapping or knocking sensation beneath the magnetic coil.
- The treatment can last 3 to 60 minutes. You can drive yourself home after the procedure and resume normal activities.
You’ll need to repeat the procedure, for 30-50 times, depending on what is being treated.
Who delivers TMS?
TMS is not for everyone. SASOP (South African Society of Psychiatrists) recommends that the treating psychiatrist evaluate the suitability for TMS and refer the patient to a TMS clinic. At the TMS clinic, the treatments are delivered by a trained technician following a psychiatrist’s “script”. There should be feedback between the TMS clinic and the referring psychiatrist to ensure continuity of care.
Where can I do TMS in South Africa?
TMS in South Africa is relatively new, but interest is rapidly expanding. Please go to www.rewire.co.za for more information on a clinic in your area, or call 021 7941321.
Will medical aid pay?
Certain of the medical aids will pay on their top schemes, with T&C’s. Contact Rewire TMS Clinics for help motivating to your funder: www.rewire.co.za
In a nutshell
TMS targets the activity of nerve cells in your brain, which may alleviate depression symptoms. It could also have benefit for disorders like OCD, anxiety, and PTSD.
The procedure may even improve motor dysfunction, making it helpful for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke rehabilitation.
If you’re interested in TMS, talk with a doctor. You may be a good candidate if you have a low risk of seizures and haven’t felt relief from antidepressants.