TMS And RTMS: What’s The Difference?

Keegan Warrington
April 4, 2022

In more ways than one, technology has improved many people’s lives. More than your average security in your homes-appliances, random objects powered by tech, in the office, or at school, technology is evident and seen mainly in the latest phone models, computers, cars, and so much more —but imagine what it did for the medical field?

Let’s go back to the 1816s. One of the earliest medical device innovators was a French physician named René Laennec. He is credited for inventing the first stethoscope and was marked as one of the first times that physicians were able to explore the inner workings of a human body without opening it.

He made it possible to diagnose pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis with his invention. In 1874, a British scientist named Richard Caton noted electrical impulses from the brains of animals by using a Galvanometer.

Compared to the technology that we have now, it helped improve the world of medicine. Nowadays, doctors and nurses use handheld devices to record and update patients’ medical records. The advancement of technology in the medical field has saved millions of lives, contributed to sustainable healthcare, and improved many others.

Medical technologies include smart inhalers, wireless brain sensors, artificial organs, and many more. Technology also helps in advancing Medical Equipment like Defibrillators, sterilizers, patient and anesthesia monitors, ultrasound scanners, and X-Ray machines.

Technology also made the medical field accessible to many people. They can make discoveries regarding treatments, research symptoms, diseases, and cures, human aiding devices like hearing devices and speaking devices, and many more.

As technology evolves, the field of medicine discovered TMS also known as Transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS is a therapy that helps patients with depression when therapy and medication do not effectively treat the patient. People with depression may be nervous about this treatment when they first see it but TMS is non-invasive and it painlessly stimulates the patient’s brain.

During Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, the patient doesn’t need to go under anesthesia. The doctor then places an electromagnet coil against the patient’s scalp, near the forehead, and then the device will deliver electromagnetic waves that stimulate specific areas of the brain. Clients may come in about five times per week for four to six weeks. This treatment can last up to 30 to 60 minutes, but this can vary depending on the patient’s symptoms and the device used.

what is rtms

Patients should wear earplugs during their TMS treatments to protect them from the thumping sounds that the machine makes. Only 10% of patients experience tingling and painful sensations in the scalp during TMS treatment; clients may bring some over-the-counter medication for headaches. Patients may see long-lasting results when TMS works. Sometimes, depression never returns. But clients should go to therapy that can keep depression at bay after treatment.

There are different types of TMS. The traditional TMS sends one continuous signal to the brain, the deep TMS (dTMS) can send electromagnetic waves deeper than other types of therapy, the repetitive TMS (rTMS) that have several rapidly repeating signals.

What Is rTMS?

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a non-invasive, non-surgical treatment for mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

3 Main Kinds Of TMS Treatments

1.    Single Pulse

2.    Paired Pulse

3.    Repetitive TMS

rTMS is a practice that uses magnetic pulses to aim at definite areas of your brain. Your brain then creates waves that prove the presence of electric activity in it. When you are experiencing mental illness, may it be depression or anxiety, these brain waves will slow down.

It activates regions of the brain that may have decreased activity in depression. Doctors may combine rTMS with traditional treatments like antidepressants. rTMS also does not require surgery or implantation of electrodes. Psychotherapy and Antidepressant medications are the first lines of treatments for major depression, but this kind of treatment is not successful for some patients. That is why rTMS treatment is an alternative remedy.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, during an rTMS procedure, patients are always asked to remove any magnetic-sensitive objects such as credit cards and jewelry before beginning the rTMS treatment.

An experienced TMS physician will always be present to administer and monitor the patient during the treatment. Patients are fully awake during the rTMS treatment because It does not require sedation or general anesthesia.

rtms treatment

What Are The rTMS Side Effects?

Like all medication and medical procedures, there are some non-life-threatening side effects to rTMS. Most of the patients who have undergone the process reports mild discomfort during and after the therapy. Here is a list of some side effects:

  • Facial twitching
  • Hearing problems
  • Light-headedness
  • Mild headaches
  • Scalp sensations
  • Tingling sensation in your face, jaw, and scalp

What Are The Possible Benefits Of rTMS Therapy?

rTMS therapy does not require surgery, anesthesia, or implantation of electrodes unlike ECT or electroconvulsive therapy.

The effects after the rTMS therapy are already felt within the first ten sessions in 2 to 3 weeks. The prolonged effects of the treatment, on the other hand, are felt after 4 to 8 weeks, and local treatment leaves little to no side effects.

What Are The Differences?

Both rTMS and TMS are safe methods of treating depression; however, there are differences between the two:

TMS uses a patented H1-coil. It fits inside the front half of a hat-like device to be worn by the patient, and it manages to reach a significant sub-threshold of 1.25″ or 3.2cm. And this treatment can last up to 20 minutes. And TMS is designed to stimulate four centimeters deep in the forehead region.

rTMS, on the other hand, uses a figure-8 coil, and the magnetic pulses activated by standard rTMS only reach a depth of 0.27″ or 0.7cm. This therapy lasts longer, up to 40 minutes, and rTMS therapy also penetrates about one and a half centimeters into the brain.

In contrast, after the patients complete their TMS or rTMS series therapy, they may seek their doctors for standard care for depression, like psychotherapy and medication. This may be recommended as ongoing therapy.

Some researchers are studying more about TMS, which can evolve into new treatments for other disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress, bipolar disorder, and many more.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a painless treatment that benefits patients with mental health disorders. Even when it is not a first-line treatment, it can help boost or improve your recovery. Check us out if you feel like you need this treatment. Because here at Roots TMS, we’re all about helping you take control of your lives. Please schedule an appointment with us now to get started.

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Keegan Warrington