Day by Day, Patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression Gain their Lives Back Through TMS

Approximately one-third of men and women who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder are unable to alleviate their symptoms with psychotherapy or medication. Some have spent years trying to stabilize their mood disorder unsuccessfully, leaving them with little hope and no answers. Until recently.

Through a generous donation by Dr. Michael and Billie Kubly, Rogers Memorial Hospital purchased a Neurostar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device in December 2014. Since that time, it has been used effectively with more than 75 patients in the FOCUS program at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, helping adults who suffer from depression and other mood disorders gain their life back.

According to TMS technician Katie Alter, approximately 75% of the patients she has treated have reported a reduction in their depressive symptoms, with about 30% of them experiencing full remission.

What is TMS?

TMS is a noninvasive and painless treatment in which a series of quick magnetic pulses are delivered to a precise location in the prefrontal lobe on the left side of the brain, which is believed to regulate mood.

The TMS machine looks like a nondescript gray chair you might see in a dental office; however, this chair delivers a powerful therapy in the fight against depression. During the initial consultation, Tyler Rickers, MD, the physician who oversees the program, meets with the patient to determine whether TMS is appropriate for them, based on their medical history. Then he begins the careful work of calibrating the treatment to set the motor threshold, which indicates the dosage needed to stimulate the brain. It’s slightly different for everyone. After the initial session, Alter continues the prescribed therapy set by Dr. Rickers, seeing the patient five days a week for six weeks. Each session lasts just 34 minutes.

Side effects are minimal. “Patients may experience headaches during the first week,” said Alter, “but that is usually temporary. Memory is not affected, and a patient can drive right after the appointment.”

“Most patients describe the effects of TMS as gradual,” Alter further explained. “They say it feels like they are slowly coming out of a fog. As the days go on and treatment continues, they just feel better and better.”

The obvious changes Alter observes in her patients’ moods is impressive, she admits, but it’s the joy her patients express as they begin to feel better that’s more powerful to her. “A number of family members and friends have said they are seeing, for the first time in a long time, the person they knew before the illness. That is so rewarding.”

TMS is used in tandem with daily therapy at Rogers and provides doctors with another tool to help patients with depression. Because of its positive impact, the hospital hopes to raise money to purchase a second TMS machine in 2016 so even more patients can be treated with this potentially life-saving treatment.