The body of evidence supporting TMS use for depression

You may have heard about a novel drug-free treatment for depression called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, also known as TMS.

The use of TMS to treat depression has been around for more than 30 years, however it is relatively new to Australia – being added to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists management of major depressive disorder guidelines in December 2015.

A great deal of research articles has been published regarding the efficacy of depression medication as a treatment. One of the most prominent articles being the Star*D trial, which saw participants undergo four levels of medication trials and recorded their response and remission rates, as well as the rate of side effects experienced. The conclusion drawn from this study is that the more types of depression medications patients try, the less likely they are to get a response to them.

“E.G. 48.6% OF PATIENTS HAD A RESPONSE TO THE 1ST STEP IN MEDICATION TREATMENT, HOWEVER ONLY 16.8% OF PATIENTS WERE HAVING A RESPONSE TO THE 4TH LEVEL OF MEDICATION TREATMENT.“

Compare this to the Carpenter study done on TMS, which showed a response rate of 58%, which means that a patient is nearly four time more likely to get a response from TMS than trying a third antidepressant.

“58% TMS RESPONSE RATE = YOU ARE NEARLY 4X MORE LIKE TO BENEFIT FROM TMS THAN TRYING A THIRD LINE ANTIDEPRESSANT”

Furthermore, remission rates steadily declined throughout the four levels of medication treatment, seeing 36.8% of patients going in to remission after the first level of medication treatment declining to only 13% of patients going in to remission after trying their fourth medication. TMS remission rates are at around 30%, meaning that nearly 1 in 3 patients who undergo TMS treatment are free of depressive symptoms after treatment.

For more details on studies that have been conducted on TMS please see the article featured on Psych Scene Hub.

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