Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a treatment for depression is finally gaining acceptance as an alternative to medication and other therapies, according to a report in the Tennessean. Medicare began covering TMS in cases where other therapies have failed as of Dec. 1, and Magellan Behavior Health Inc., a specialty insurance administrator, will provide coverage as of Jan. 1.
Dr. Oz has talked about the treatment on his show in the past, saying he believed it could be an effective treatment, and asking: “Why is every psychiatrist in the country not thinking about this for patients?”
So what is NeuroStar TMS? It is an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy, or shock treatments, for those who don’t respond to drugs or traditional psychotherapy. A patient sits in the chair while a magnetic pulse emitter transmits energy from a levered arm, according to the report, which compared the process to undergoing dental X-rays.
“When this large magnet pulses repetitively, it causes an electromagnetic field, which then passes through the skull and stimulates the brain tissue itself,” Dr. Scott West, a psychiatrist who pioneered the treatment in Nashville 2 1/2 years ago said in the report. He explained this results in a cascading effect that results in the interior nerve fibers connecting better.
Additionally, a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health revealed a “significant effect of treatment” when patients received TMS, and compared outcomes of those receiving the treatment to a placebo group. The results showed depressed patients who received the TMS treatment had remission rates four times higher than those in the sham group, according to The Tennessean report.
Although the treatment is costly – as much as $400 for a 37-minute session, and usually requires multiple sessions – it is far less then an extended hospital stay, the report stated.