Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has FDA approval for treating major depressive disorder, migraines with aura, obsessive-compulsive disorder, smoking cessation, anxiety associated with depression, and much more. It’s incredibly safe and effective compared to more invasive treatment methods.
TMS specialists use an electromagnetic field around your head to deliver short pulses to your brain cells in areas associated with your condition. This non-invasively stimulates these cells, called neurons, to restore normal function. This treatment is well tolerated by most people, but it’s essential to disclose the following information to ensure your safety:
1. Mental Health Disorders
Before starting TMS therapy, you must disclose any mental health or substance abuse conditions that you have been previously diagnosed with. Using certain substances can affect the effectiveness and safety of undergoing TMS. TMS can influence some mood disorders, so your team needs to know your complete medical history and the severity of your conditions.
2. Metal in Your Body
Because TMS uses MRI-strength magnets to administer the therapy, you must disclose any metal in your body.
Stents, aneurysm clips or coils, implanted stimulators in your brain, pacemakers or permanent medication pumps, brain electrodes, and cochlear implants are just a few examples of what your TMS team needs to know about.
Braces and dental fillings are safe, but other than that, any metal within twelve inches of the TMS coil can pose an issue. Disclose all non-removable metal objects in your body.
3. History of Brain Injury or Surgery
TMS providers must know if you have a history of concussions or other traumatic brain injuries. If you have had a brain tumor, stroke, or any other condition relating to your brain structure or function, you should disclose it before starting TMS treatments.
Your treatment team will want to know if you experience persistent or terrible headaches or migraines, especially if accompanied by an aura. If you have had brain surgery or a neurological illness like meningitis, it can impact your treatment plan.
4. Previous Seizures or Family History of Epilepsy
Whether a previous seizure was due to a substance or you merely have a familial history of epilepsy or other seizure disorders, your provider needs to know. TMS can lower the seizure threshold for some patients, especially if you are predisposed to them.
5. Your Allergy List
Whenever you are undergoing a medical procedure, no matter how innocuous, you should disclose your allergy list, covering dietary, medication, and environmental allergies. They will need to know what you are allergic to, your reaction, and any interventions needed to mitigate the allergy.
6. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Status
While TMS is a safer treatment option while pregnant than antidepressant medications because of their systemic side effects, your medical team still needs to know your reproductive status. If you are planning to become pregnant, are currently pregnant, or are breastfeeding, notify the TMS center’s staff so that they can take the appropriate precautions.
7. Previous TMS Sessions
Your provider will need to know about any previous TMS sessions in consideration for the best treatment plan for you. They will want records to review your prior therapy’s dosage, frequency, and duration. In rare instances, regular TMS isn’t effective, and your provider may recommend accelerated TMS, a newer method that works for patients unresponsive to standard treatments. Otherwise, they need this information to optimize and improve your future treatments.
8. Any Other Existing Health Problems
Again, when having therapy, your treatment team needs to be aware of other medical conditions, even if they won’t impact that particular procedure. Diabetes doesn’t interact with TMS, but if you have a diabetic event while in the office, the treatment team needs to know the appropriate interventions. TMS can minorly impact heart rate or blood pressure, so your doctor will want to know of any heart problems or conditions, even if they were in the past.
9. Your Medications, Vitamins, and Supplements
Certain substances can influence your response to TMS therapy, so you must disclose anything you are taking that’s not considered a traditional food or beverage. You should list your prescription medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications you routinely use. If you cannot remember them well, bring them in to ensure you note each one, the dosage, and the frequency you take them.
When in doubt, disclose any concerns to your treatment team. More information is always better than not enough regarding your healthcare. It’s crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your provider to discuss these topics and any questions or concerns you have before consenting to start TMS treatment.