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rTMS Treatment

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a groundbreaking brain stimulation therapy that helps individuals manage depression and anxiety-related issues. Functional since 1985, rTMS treatment involves focusing on specific areas of the brain and stimulating them with a magnet.

rTMS is a medicine-free treatment that’s suggested by a psychiatrist or a doctor as an adjunct to the main therapy or when traditional therapies or antidepressant medications are unable to provide expected relief for the individual.

rTMS is a popular procedure that is used to treat depression and usually chosen after both medication and psychotherapy have failed. It’s also important to explore antidepressant medications before moving on to rTMS therapy. Generally, patients choose rTMS treatment when they’ve used up all other options. rTMS is also for those patients who have a greater risk of seizures and may not support anesthesia.

How Does Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) Work?

The rTMS device produces a series of strong magnetic signals to the brain by the use of electromagnetic coils. The coil passes the impulse to the brain nerves through the device when it’s placed on the forehead of the individual. Initially, the medical professional analyses the area of the brain that needs to be stimulated.

Then the specific nerve cells in the brain are targeted and induced. As the rTMS treatment progresses the brainwave regulations improve, thereby providing relief to the individual by reducing the symptoms.

Is rTMS effective?

rTMS therapy is effective against illnesses such as depression and anxiety. rTMS is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique which has a greater effect for several mood-related issues and disorders. rTMS treatment helps to manage other neurological and psychological disorders such as: 

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Sleep-related issues
  • Chronic pain

Is rTMS safe?

Yes, rTMS is a completely safe treatment method. Furthermore, it doesn’t require any medications such as needles and anaesthetics. rTMS induces only the pure magnetic impulse to enter the body. rTMS treatment comes with few minor side effects (mentioned below). Other than that, rTMS has lesser side effects when compared to the other side effects that are associated with antidepressant and medications.

Side effects of rTMS:

rTMS therapy is one of the most popular techniques because of its non-invasive approach. However, it does have a few side effects on the individual. Remarkably, the side effects may not continue for a long period of time. Some of the side effects are:

  • A slight tapping or knocking sensation through bones as the electric current is passed
  • Nausea
  • Scalp irritation
  • Seizures
  • Temporary Hearing loss
  • Temporary Vision problems
  • Mania

In some cases, rTMS treatment may not be ideal. Although there are some people who may benefit from rTMS, however, they shouldn’t explore it. This can happen in the following cases where the patient may have: 

  • Aneurysm clips
  • Bullet fragments in the head
  • Cardiac pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD)
  • Facial tattoos sensitive to magnets
  • Metal implants in eyes or ears
  • Stents in the neck or brain

rTMS and ECT- The Difference between the two

People commonly get mixed up with ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). However, there’s a vast difference between these two treatment methods.

In ECT, the electrical signals are sent to the whole brain to improve the mood of the individual. Whereas in rTMS, the impulse is sent to the targeted specific nerve cells in the brain, which also makes this therapy more effective and accurate. 

The second difference is that anesthesia or a muscle relaxant is administered during the ECT process to prevent any shaking during the stimulation. In the case of rTMS, no sedation medicines are administered which reduces the risk of any potential side effects. Another difference is also in their area of targeting.

While rTMS is able to target a specific part of the brain since the rTMS coil can be placed over a certain part of the brain, thereby sending impulses only to that part, whereas ECT is unable to target specific areas. Finally, while both ECT and rTMS can be used to treat depression, ECT is used to treat more life-threatening forms of depression.

What is the duration of rTMS?

The duration of the rTMS therapy may vary between individuals with respect to the severity of the illness or issue. However, most of the sessions may last 30 to 60 minutes about 2 times a week. The number of sessions could be longer or shorter depending upon the individual’s improvement and recovery. Normally, the duration may last for six weeks.

Benefits of rTMS:

No sedation or anesthetic is required- Most times, when patients undergo a major procedure it usually involves anesthesia or sedation, which can pose a life risk as well; sedation and anesthesia can cause loads of fear and anxiety.

Unlike sedation, that can have negative side effects like confusion, vomiting, cognitive dysfunction and delirium, electroconvulsive therapy or rational emotive therapy does not need sedation or anesthesia; this will minimize lots of the risks.

Few side effects- rTMS has shown little to no side effects or safety risks. Only ten percent of patients have experienced dome discomfort such as mild headaches. There are rare cases where rTMS has caused a seizure. Hence, proper screening should be done before receiving rTMS therapy.

Quick Onset- Almost 75% of patients will see a response with rTMS therapy, in a clinical setting. This is defined as a drop in depression symptoms by half. Around 50% of patients who have received this rTMS treatment have experienced mild symptoms.

rTMS patients can see some improvements within the first two weeks of treatments, unlike some medications that take the body many weeks to adjust to the dosage.

No recovery period- Since rTMS does not need any anesthetic or sedation, there is no need for a recovery period after a session.

Cognitive improvements- Usually, depression can cause cognitive impairments, and patients will see an increase in cognitive functioning. Studies have shown that rational emotive therapy, in high frequencies, can improve attention, memory, and executive functioning like decision making and reasoning.

Other benefits include- 

  • Non-invasive
  • Non-medicine treatment
  • Effective with all mood-related issues
  • Responsive treatment technique

About Cadabams Hospitals

Cadabams Hospitals is the top psychiatric hospital in Bangalore for all kinds of mental health conditions including Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia, OCD amongst others.

We have a stellar team of some of the top psychiatrists in Bangalore supported by specialist doctors, top therapists, registered mental health nurses, and social workers. We help patients with a variety of therapeutic approaches towards resolving mental health issues including rTMS treatment.


> Is rTMS really effective?

If you attend regular sessions of rTMS therapy, then you may benefit from it. Moreover, a combined treatment of rTMS and psychotherapy is known to work really well.

> Is it okay to get rTMS without CBT?

rTMS is best known to work along with CBT. So it’s recommended to explore combined sessions of rTMS and CBT.

> How many sessions of rTMS do I need?

Ideally, going for around 20 sessions is recommended. The frequency of the sessions should be at least 2 to 3 times a week. You can expect to get results within 8 to 12 sessions

> Will it be painful to go through an rTMS session?

Although an rTMS session won’t be painful, however, the magnetic sensations can seem a bit uncomfortable.

> Will I be able to drive myself home after an rTMS treatment?

Since no medications are administered during the course of the treatment, you may not lose your ability to drive home alone. However, it may make you feel tired, so it’s best to have a closed one who can drive you home.

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