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How Long Do the Effects of TMS Treatment Last?

Learn here about TMS therapy and what it can do to help treat mental disorders.

How Long Do the Effects of TMS Treatment Last?

Article Contents

What Is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS), also known as RTMS (Repetitive TMS), is a non-invasive magnetic therapy for depression that utilizes repetitive delivery of magnetic pulses from magnetic fields to affect the stimulation and excitation of neuronal cells in the brain.1 As a result of the TMS success rate recorded, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved TMS for depression.2 Many people who receive this treatment may have questions, including “how long do the effects of TMS treatment last?”

TMS treatment for depression is an adjunct treatment that can be simultaneously employed with medication. It is a treatment option used when other conventional methods of treating depression have failed.3

How is TMS Treatment Performed?

A qualified doctor performs the TMS procedure. Since surgery is not required, the patient is not sedated. Instead, the TMS device, which contains an electromagnetic coil, is either implanted close to the patient’s left prefrontal cortex or the front side of the scalp locations, which have been identified to exhibit low functional and metabolic activity in depressed patients.3

For about forty minutes, the TMS device is held in place to allow the area of the brain implicated in the depression state to receive a continuous stream of electric current. These impulses generated and sent to the brain set off chemical reactions, which over time assist in improving the patient’s mood.3

To achieve the best results, doctors recommend rTMS treatment for a total of thirty sessions, broken down into five sessions per week for four to six weeks.3 The patient will be awake for the duration of the operation and may feel some scalp discomfort during the treatment.

Benefits of TMS Therapy

TMS for depression is very effective even for people who have failed to respond to other treatments. Patients with depression who have not found relief from other treatments, such as psychotherapy and medications, may benefit from this noninvasive approach.4

TMS for depression is an effective treatment option for patients with unipolar major depression who have failed at least one antidepressant drug. TMS is also recommended for individuals who have had a positive response to a previous round of TMS.

rTMS treatment has an advantage over other similar procedures. The pulses rarely penetrate more than two inches into the brain, which allows for heightened precision, thereby avoiding adverse effects that may be elicited due to pulses reaching unwanted areas.

Effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Despite the advantages and benefits of magnetic therapy for depression, there are still several risks associated with the short-term and long-term use of rTMS as a treatment option.

Short-Term Effects of TMS

Although TMS is generally safe and well-tolerated, side effects such as scalp discomfort at the stimulation site and headache have been reported to occur. Other effects of short-term magnetic therapy for depression include tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles, and lightheadedness.

However, these effects can be easily taken care of by reporting them to the doctor who implanted the TMS device. The doctor can reduce the level of stimulation, which will reduce the symptoms like scalp discomfort (which is an effect associated with the stimulation site). In addition, over-the-counter (OTC) medications for managing pain can also be prescribed for headaches.

More serious side effects like seizures, hearing loss, and mania, although rare, may also occur. Hearing loss may result from inadequate protection of the ear during the electromagnetic therapy for depression in TMS treatment.

Long-Term Effects of Repetitive TMS Therapy

As mentioned earlier, one factor that makes rTMS an attractive treatment option is the low occurrence of side effects associated with this treatment method. However, it should be noted that neuroplasticity has been associated with rTMS as a long-term effect.5

How Long Do the Effects of TMS Treatment Last?

How Long Do the Effects of TMS Treatment Last?
The question “how long do the effects of TMS treatment last?” is quite difficult to answer correctly for several clinical and patient-related reasons. Depression is a complicated condition that has several factors such as genetic vulnerability, stress, drug and alcohol usage contributing to its development. To further complicate matters, people are unique and respond to situations differently.6

This issue, of course, means that a variety of factors will influence each individual’s mood and brain functions. This absence of specific, predictable factors and reactions makes it difficult to identify the factors responsible for the patient’s brain functioning. In turn, it prevents the possibility of giving a definite answer to this question.

However, based on previous treatment experience, patients can expect mood improvements from TMS treatment for depression to last six months to one year or more, depending on individual-specific factors.

Factors that Affect the Response from TMS

Several factors may affect responses observed from TMS therapy. They include:


rTMS treatment has been shown to exhibit age-dependent efficacy, with better antidepressant activities being observed as age increases (up until a point which is usually the seventy-year mark). In older patients, prefrontal atrophy may increase the distance between the coil and the cortex to the point where stimulation, which normally penetrates to a depth of 2cm to 3cm, does not affect cortical activity.7

Therefore, TMS treatment for depression has been approved for patients eighteen to seventy years of age. However, magnetic treatment for depression is considered an off-label procedure for patients outside that range.

Early Positive Response to TMS Treatments

Patients with depression who responded well to TMS during a previous depressive episode have been observed to respond well to TMS during a later depressed episode. As a result, a positive reaction to earlier rTMS treatment can be used to predict a positive response to TMS for depression.

The Severity of Depression

Depression has also been shown to affect remission rates after TMS procedures. Compared to patients with severe depression, people with mild or moderate depression had significantly better outcomes after receiving rTMS.

What Outcomes Should Be Expected from TMS Treatment?

It may take a few weeks of treatment to see symptom alleviation. However, if rTMS treatment is successful, the patient’s depression symptoms may be observed to have lessened, or symptoms may even disappear completely.

Centres like the Neurostim TMS have recorded high success rates in patient outcomes, with over 70% of their patients experiencing greater than 50% improvements with depressive symptoms.8

Frequently Asked Questions

Is TMS Therapy Permanent?

Although TMS treatment for depression is impressive (result-wise), it is important to note that similar to most other therapies for mood disorders, recurrence of depressive states can occur, so magnetic therapy for depression is not permanent.9

On the other hand, most TMS patients feel better for months after treatment ends (the average response length is over a year). Therefore, TMS maintenance sessions may be necessary to maintain the results derived from treatment.

How Many Times Can You Get Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

TMS is usually done in one course of treatment that consists of thirty sessions, broken down into five sessions per week for six weeks. However, a second course can be recommended for individuals who experienced relapse and those who didn’t achieve remission with the first course of treatment.9

Is TMS a Safe Procedure?

rTMS is generally regarded to be safe and well-tolerated.10 However, it has some contraindications, so patients should consult their doctors before undergoing any TMS procedure to ascertain the procedure is safe for them.

Does Insurance Cover TMS?

Many insurance providers cover TMS for depression because it is highly effective and FDA-approved for treating major depressive disorders. However, every insurance company has policies regarding this coverage, so you should inquire from your insurance provider. Insurance companies do not, however, cover maintenance TMS sessions.11

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