If you or a loved one suffers from depression, you want to know all your treatment options. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved, non-pharmaceutical method of treating depression. It’s an ideal treatment for anyone that doesn’t tolerate medications well or hasn’t been helped adequately by prescriptions and talk therapy. You can read more about standard TMS here. If TMS is so great, when and why should patients consider accelerated TMS?
What is Accelerated TMS?
Standard TMS treatment courses typically provide one session per day for approximately six to seven weeks. Accelerated TMS delivers the same treatment on a highly condensed treatment timeline. You receive five to ten daily treatment sessions for one to two weeks. The safety of TMS treatments remains the same as the standard protocol, just with accelerated results.
Pro: Get Depression Relief Faster
Suppose you are suffering from acute suicidal ideation. In that case, accelerated treatment can give you relief in as little as a week compared to standard TMS, roughly seven weeks, or medication, which can take three to six months.
If other means of treating your severe major depressive disorder weren’t successful, accelerated TMS could be the solution. Research is still ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that accelerated treatment may provide higher response rates than traditional TMS treatment protocols. While the majority of patients benefit from standard TMS therapy, some patients who failed to benefit from standard TMS, report better responses to accelerated treatments.
Con: Insurance Doesn’t Cover it Yet
The great benefit of standard TMS treatment is that most insurance at least partially covers treatment. Insurance companies haven’t started to cover accelerated TMS at all yet. If you want a covered treatment, you will have to go with standard TMS, for the time being. Speak with your insurance or TMS clinic to see what your policy will cover before deciding between standard or accelerated TMS.
Pro: Minimal Side Effects
Like with standard TMS treatments, you can avoid the debilitating side effects of antidepressant medications, such as weight gain, listlessness, fatigue, brain fog, and loss of your sex drive. It’s a better option if you suffer from your medications’ side effects. If you are looking to reduce the amount or stop taking your antidepressant medications, accelerated TMS may be best since you will have faster results.
Con: Both Standard and Accelerated TMS Have The Same Exclusion Criteria
While there aren’t many things that exclude you from getting TMS treatment, there are a few, and they are the same for both accelerated and standard TMS.
If you have a seizure disorder, you cannot have TMS due to the risks seizures pose. If you have metal implants in your brain or near the treatment site, you may not be excluded from treatment, but you should notify your treatment provider. This includes brain or neural implants. Unfortunately, TMS may not be safe for you if you have sustained previous brain damage from injury or illness. Speak with TMS experts about your medical history to determine if you can start treatment safely.
Pro: Best Option if You Don’t Have TMS Treatment Centers Near You
If you have to travel outside your immediate area of work, school, or home, regular TMS treatment can be costly and burdensome to fit into your daily schedule. Having children, a demanding job or a full schedule can make it even more difficult. Accelerated TMS may be the better fit for you, as the treatment schedule is much shorter.
Con: Treatment Days Can Be Lengthy
While you won’t have to take time out of your day for seven weeks, your treatment can be demanding for the week or so you undergo it. Depending on your individualized treatment plan, you will have five to ten daily sessions. Each session only lasts around 10 minutes, but you need a 50-minute rest period between each one. You will not be impaired at all, so you’ll be able to make phone calls, read, or watch TV. You will need to be at or near the clinic for several hours each day of treatment.
What About SAINT TMS For Depression?
If you’ve been researching TMS treatments, SAINT or Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy has probably popped up. SAINT utilizes accelerated TMS with functional brain imaging to target your specialized treatment. It’s a huge success and a step forward in providing relief for patients with treatment-resistant depression. However, it is not available yet for standard clinical practice. The FDA has just approved one version that may be available as soon as 2023.
Just as standard TMS was a breakthrough for depression treatment nearly two decades ago, accelerated TMS and the upcoming SAINT TMS are innovative treatments for anyone suffering from depression, especially for treatment-resistant depression. It eliminates the risk and potential side effects of pharmaceutical treatments and speeds up the recovery timeline with talk therapy. The bottom line is that TMS helps you feel better faster. Accelerated TMS speeds that up, maximizing the quick turnaround, making it even more accessible with shorter treatment times. If you are still unsure what TMS treatment is right for you, speak to a clinic about your options.