TRAVERSE CITY — Antidepressants can help profoundly depressed patients, but drugs don’t always work.
Some patients have turned to a relatively new therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.
Two area psychiatrists, Marilyn “Lyn” Conlon and Luis Oxholm, are using TMS to treat patients who suffer chronic depression that medication can’t seem to touch. They report a level of success that exceeds the results of clinical studies, in part because they can adjust the treatment’s duration or intensity depending on the patient’s progress.
The therapy, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008, involves focusing magnetic pulses on the prefrontal cortex to create mild electrical currents. Those currents ruffle slumbering neurons that release mood-affecting neurotransmitters.
The treatment carries no side effects, except for headaches, but it’s very expensive and doesn’t always work.
Treatment costs anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, depending on the duration, typically around six weeks. Booster treatments are usually required every six months to a year at an additional cost of about $780.
Patients like Stan Walat said his depression crippled him for literally decades. Nothing helped until TMS. Tom, a successful area businessman, said he finally feels normal after eight years. Read their stories in today’s Body & Soul section.