Who Qualifies For TMS Treatment?

Henna Geronimo
August 4, 2023

Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS treatment is a non-invasive approach that uses magnetic fields to improve patients’ brain activities. Healthcare professionals use it to treat mental health conditions like major depressive disorder (MDD). 

It is a safe alternative to conventional techniques because it doesn’t require surgery. It’s a therapeutic option that specialists resort to when traditional forms of treatment don’t work well with patients. 

If you want to know more about the advantages of this treatment, this read is for you. This article also discusses who qualifies for TMS, how is the eligibility evaluation process, and what factors influence it.

TMS eligibility
Source: Roots Mental Wellness

How TMS Treatment Works

English scientist Dr. Anthony Baker and his team first introduced TMS in 1985. Fast forward to nearly five decades, specialists now use this groundbreaking treatment to influence specific brain areas.

During a TMS session, your specialist will place an electromagnetic coil (which comes in the form of a helmet or an extension device) over your head. The coil will produce magnetic fields, generate small currents, and deliver repeated pulses to a part of your brain to influence electrical activity. The goal of this approach is to restore the brain’s chemical balance.

Here are its advantages over its traditional counterparts.

High Success Rate

While the TMS success rate varies from one illness to another, it helps ease symptoms and address MDD and other brain-related disorders. 

According to reports, about 50 to 60% of people with depression whose medications haven’t worked well garnered a clinically meaningful response when they underwent TMS sessions.

TMS therapy
Source: Unsplash.com

A Safe, Relaxing Experience

While you may experience a tapping sensation or hear a clicking sound during a TMS treatment, the sessions are generally painless and comfortable. While you may experience a tapping sensation or hear a clicking sound during a TMS treatment, the sessions are generally painless. You will sit on a comfortable chair and will be able to relax and do activities like watching television, browsing your phone, or listening to music. 

TMS sessions are a highly convenient outpatient procedure. They last anywhere from a few minutes to nearly an hour for each session. Experts consider it safe though you may experience tolerable side effects ranging from lightheadedness to drowsiness, you can go about your day afterwards.

Compatibility With Other Treatments

TMS works well with other methods. Typically, people who undergo (or have undergone) TMS also undertake other forms of treatment, such as talk therapy and medications. 

What Diagnosis Is TMS Approved For?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved TMS to treat MDD. 

MDD poses debilitating effects on millions of people worldwide. In the US alone, a 2020 report stated that around 14.8 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. 

With TMS, experts can activate brain cells responsible for regulating mood and emotions. It helps alleviate symptoms of depression, enhance one’s mood, and improve overall well-being. Using the same principle, professionals employ TMS treatments to address anxiety-related conditions that involve chemical imbalances in the brain.

The FDA has also given the green light to use TMS in treating migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and smoking cessation. Again, it has to do with this technique’s efficacy in influencing electrical activities in the brain. 

Evaluating TMS Eligibility

Usually, experts use TMS as an alternative when conventional methods fail to achieve desirable outcomes. While most patients are eligible for it, healthcare professionals perform a thorough evaluation to determine if this treatment is indeed suitable and safe for someone.

If you’re a candidate for TMS, expect them to do preliminary assessments, asking you to take a physical exam and lab tests. It gives them a better picture of your overall health status. Then, they do psychiatric evaluations to identify your mental health condition and gauge its severity.

They also check your medical and psychiatric history and review your past treatments to assess how you’ve responded to them. Doing so will also let them check if you have conditions that can negatively impact the success of TMS.

For instance, if you have a history (or family history) of epilepsy, you may not be qualified. It’s because TMS’ magnetic pulses can trigger seizures in individuals prone to them. 

Another consideration is if you have brain damage from injury or illness like head trauma. It’s a factor that hinders your eligibility because it can impair your brain’s response to TMS. Subjecting targeted areas of your brain to magnetic stimulation can also pose risks related to your recent injury or any other pre-existing condition.

What diagnosis is TMS approved for?
Source: Roots Mental Wellness

What Affects An Individual’s Eligibility?

Apart from what we discussed above, several other factors further determine your TMS eligibility.

Treatment Resistance

There are cases when someone with a mental health condition like depression becomes resistant to conventional treatments. When such approaches have been ineffective, TMS is a viable option. Hence, if you have a treatment-resistant condition, you are more likely to be qualified for TMS.

Medication History 

Some medications can compromise the effectiveness of TMS. It’s why clinicians must be particularly prudent when recommending patients to undergo TMS. They must exercise caution if a candidate like you has been using tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics like clozapine and chlorpromazine, sedatives, anticonvulsants, and bupropion (which helps with smoking cessation).

The use of drugs of abuse like ecstasy and cocaine can also diminish the treatment's success rate. 

Other Considerations

Now, you might ask if age and pregnancy come into play when assessing your TMS eligibility. Currently, there are no pieces of research that negate TMS’ safety or efficacy among pregnant people. Additionally, scientists have found that TMS is equally effective across age brackets (the study involved people aged 15 to 78). 

What can further affect your eligibility is the presence of implants in your body, particularly around or near your head. If you have electronic or metal implants, you may not be suitable due to the strong magnetic fields that each session produces. These implants include cochlear implants, aneurysm clips or coils, pacemakers, and even bullet fragments.

Source: Pexels.com

Final Words

TMS is a non-invasive, FDA-approved technique that healthcare professionals use to treat mental health conditions like MDD, OCD, and PTSD. It’s an alternative option for patients whose previous conventional treatments were ineffective. 

If you’re a candidate for one, you must undergo stringent screenings to assess the safety and suitability of TMS. A history of seizures, brain damage, or having metal implants in your body can negatively affect your likelihood of being qualified. Another consideration is if you have current or past medications that may compromise TMS’s efficacy. 

TMS is a highly personalized approach to treating mental health illnesses. The key is to consult with a professional so they can carefully evaluate your eligibility based on your specific conditions. Once eligible, you can enjoy the many advantages of TMS, including its high success rate, safety, and convenience.

Are you looking for the most trusted name in TMS therapy Long Beach has to offer? Roots TMS is a top TMS treatment provider, offering individuals a safe and effective way to overcome their mental health conditions. Reach out to us and speak to a professional today.

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Henna Geronimo
Contributing Writer