The National Institutes of Health reports that about 30 percent of adults with major depression don’t respond to treatment.
But those people have an alternative that doesn’t involve medication and is non-invasive. There are a new generation of neurostimulators, which prod certain parts of the brain to work.
Carolyn Radillo has been fighting treatment-resistant depression since she was a teenager. She’s had lots of therapy, many medications and has been hospitalized four times without much relief.
“Can’t focus, wasn’t able to work,” she said of her symptoms. “Didn’t enjoy being around even my kids and other people. It was just really hard to cope with life.”
So, when her doctor told her about NeuroStar, she said “yes.” NeuroStar delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to a part of the brain that’s underactive, causing depression.
“TMS now offers another option, in terms of how to stimulate that activity, how to get those neurons to the brain firing and releasing their neurotransmitters,” Dr. Ernest Rasyidi said.
Technicians have calibrated the coil that sends painless electrical pulses every few seconds for about 19 minutes. Carolyn will come in for 30 treatments over six weeks.
Rasyidi says half the patients report significant relief, and 30 percent are in remission from their symptoms, without drugs.
“It’s effective,” Rasyidi said. “Now, down the road, a person may experience another depressive episode and may need an additional treatment, but that’s really no different than our existing treatment with medication therapy.”
Carolyn is almost finished with her treatments.
“Over the past couple weeks, I think that it’s just gotten better, to where I’m seeing more frequent good days and less frequent bad days,” she said.
Side effects are minimal, including some scalp discomfort, twitching and headache. Neurostimulation is for adults who have tried a medication that didn’t work or wasn’t tolerated.
Most insurance companies will pay for NeuroStar treatments for depression.
Beacon Medical Group has been
. It was one of just 10 sites nationwide testing the treatment on adolescents and young adults in 2016.
TOPIC: NEUROSTAR TREATS MAJOR DEPRESSION
REPORT: MB #4441
BACKGROUND: Some people have clinical depression only once in their life, while others have it several times in a lifetime. Major depression can sometimes occur from one generation to the next in families, but often it may affect people with no family history of the illness. Clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships, symptoms that are present every day for at least two weeks. Symptoms might include: fatigue or loss of energy almost every day, feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day, impaired concentration, indecisiveness, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day, restlessness or feeling slowed down, recurring thoughts of death or suicide, or significant weight loss or gain.
TREATMENT: Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Primary care doctors or psychiatrists can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. Most antidepressants are generally safe, but the FDA requires all antidepressants to carry a black box warning, the strictest warning for prescriptions. In some cases, children, teenagers and young adults under age 25 may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed. Anyone taking an antidepressant should be watched closely for worsening depression or unusual behavior, especially when starting a new medication or with a change in dosage.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: NeuroStar uses transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to target key areas of the brain that are underactive in people with depression. It is not electroconvulsive therapy. While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that it is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells. During a NeuroStar treatment session, a magnet similar in strength to that used in an MRI is used to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood. These magnetic pulses may have a positive effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter levels, making long-term remission possible. Dr. Raysidi says it’s also being used off-label for bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD.