Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation therapy. Deep TMS therapy off-label treatment refers to TMS treatments that use technology specifically developed by BrainsWay.
TMS uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells. It was first developed as a non-invasive way to explore brain function in adults. Today it’s considered a cutting-edge technology for treating medication-resistant forms of mental health disorders.
TMS therapy is performed by a trained technician or TMS physician. It’s typically provided in a medical clinic or physician’s office as an outpatient service. Your healthcare provider may recommend TMS for anxiety or other conditions. The therapy is FDA-approved for treating depression, and off-label uses for TMS include treatment for several other mental health disorders.
You cannot undergo TMS therapy at home; however, no anesthesia is needed because TMS is non-invasive. You’ll be seated comfortably and remain fully dressed, though you’ll be asked to remove jewelry as it could interact with the sensitive magnets. Your technician will provide earplugs to minimize the sounds made by the magnetic impulses.
During the first session, the technician will measure your head for the best placement of the magnetic coil. Other measurements may also be needed to personalize the TMS machine settings.
The technicians will place the TMS coil above and in front of your head. As the treatment begins, you’ll hear clicking sounds from the released magnetic impulses. You might also feel a light tapping sensation beneath the coil. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Conventional TMS treatment scans last 30 to 60 minutes. Theta-burst stimulation treatments may take less than five minutes. When the treatment is over, you can drive home or return to your normal activities.The exact number of sessions needed will depend on your treatment condition and response to the therapy. Your doctor will discuss a treatment plan and information on what you can expect before treatments begin.
Deep TMS therapy works by delivering magnetic pulses to the nerve cells in the regions of the brain that control mood. It’s believed TMS activates the brain regions that have been affected by depression. The magnetic stimulation directly impacts the brain’s function and appears to ease symptoms of depression and improve overall mood.
According to an article published in Psychology Today, TMS therapy for depression works better for individuals who haven’t found relief with their first round of psychiatric medication. TMS therapy success rates are about 30%, like antidepressants.1
Many individuals turn to TMS therapy for bipolar depression and other forms of depression when their medications fail to help or when the side effects of their medications are unmanageable.
TMS and Deep TMS therapy are safe for most people. Common TMS therapy side effects are mild and include headaches, some scalp discomfort, tingling or twitching in the facial muscles, and lightheadedness.2 A complete physical and psychiatric evaluation will be performed to ensure that every client who receives TMS therapy for depression or other reasons is a good candidate for the treatment.
“Off-label” meds for depression or other medical treatments refer to using a medication or technology to treat a condition that the FDA hasn’t yet approved that technology for.
TMS therapy’s off-label treatment is common. This therapy is FDA-approved for treating major depressive disorder. It has been proven safe and effective for decreasing symptoms of depression in those people for whom medications don’t work.3 However, Deep TMS therapy hasn’t yet been FDA-approved for treating other disorders. Off-label uses for TMS include treatment of anxiety, panic disorders, and OCD.
Using off-label meds for depression or other mental health disorders is common. When a medication is deemed safe, a doctor might suggest trying an off-label use when it’s in their individual’s best interests. The same is true for TMS therapy off-label treatment. Your doctor may feel that using TMS for anxiety is a good decision for your health.
Is TMS therapy off-label treatment safe? Yes. TMS therapy for OCD or anxiety is considered safe because the FDA has certified the treatment to be safe. FDA testing is ongoing and close to concluding whether TMS for anxiety or other disorders besides depression is effective.
Theta-burst stimulation (TBS) is a specific form of TMS. According to the National Institutes of Health, TBS successfully induces long-lasting effects in the motor cortex through lower stimulation intensity and shorter stimulation times.4The entire neurobiological workings of TBS aren’t yet fully understood. However, administering treatment in a fraction of the time needed for traditional TMS treatments makes it ideal for use in other off-label applications.
TMS is not yet FDA-approved for treating mental health disorders other than major depression; therefore, Medicare coverage (TMS therapy) isn’t offered yet. The shorter treatment sessions and fewer treatments needed with theta-burst stimulation lower TMS therapy costs and make it a more affordable option to a wider range of clients.
It’s expected that FDA approval for TMS therapy off-label treatments will be coming soon. Once that is realized, medicare coverage (TMS therapy) should follow.
Top physicians and leading hospitals worldwide are using TMS as an off-label treatment for several mental health and cognitive disorders. Brain stimulation therapy for anxiety is one of the most cited treatments.
Some of the conditions that have been successfully treated include:
The top off-label uses for TMS include tinnitus treatment, stroke recovery treatment, autism treatment, and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the main benefits of TMS therapy is that it works when other treatments don’t. More than half of all individuals treated for depression don’t fully recover using antidepressants alone.5 Using TMS for anxiety and depression offers more than just hope; it provides a science-based foundation for lasting recovery from symptoms that can be debilitating and even life-threatening.
In addition to working when other treatments don’t, the benefits of TMS include the fact that it’s non-invasive and drug-free. And it offers an opportunity for important self-care to people whose symptoms are too often minimalized and marginalized by others.
Though they’re safe, TMS therapy off-label treatments aren’t recommended for everyone. If you have any of the following, you may not be eligible for transcranial magnetic stimulation:
Speak with your doctor and TMS technician for more information if any of the above applies to you, especially if you’re already using off-label meds for depression. If you’re considering TMS therapy off-label treatment for bipolar disorder or substance use disorders or TMS for anxiety, you may still be eligible with certain considerations.