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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Treatment-Resistant Depression

UC San Diego Health was the first provider in San Diego to offer transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for individuals with treatment-resistant depression. Our physicians continue to be at the forefront of innovation.

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

TMS is a noninvasive technological breakthrough that involves applying a series of short magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in areas of brain known to be associated with major depression. The treatment for depression is sometimes called repetitive TMS (rTMS) because repetitive magnetic pulses are delivered. 

Studies have shown that repetitive TMS is more effective at improving symptoms of major depression than antidepressant medications and talk therapy.

Why Does TMS Help with Depression?

TMS PET Brain Scan

The magnetic pulses induce small electric currents that change the firing patterns of neurons, altering dysfunctional brain patterns associated with depression. 

Is TMS Safe?

Yes. The TMS therapies we use are FDA-approved, safe and well-tolerated, with no long-term side effects. Some people may experience involuntary eye blinking or facial muscle contraction during treatment. Others report minor headaches or mild pain at the stimulation site following treatment. These side effects usually go away within 24 hours.

Treatments with TMS

Our standard TMS services include:

  • MagVenture TMS Therapy
  • BrainsWay's Deep TMS

Treatment is performed in an office and requires no anesthesia or sedation. Patients sit comfortably in a recliner and remain awake during the procedure. A typical treatment session lasts 20 to 40 minutes, with sessions repeated over a course of four to six weeks. Patients can return to normal daily life immediately after treatment.

TMS therapy may be combined with changes in prescribed medications, as well as other therapies.

TMS Theta Burst Stimulation

In addition to standard TMS treatment, we also offer:

  • TMS Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS)

TBS is an innovative form of brain stimulation that closely mimics natural brain rhythms. Treatment involves applying short bursts of magnetic stimulation, delivered at high frequencies. TBS produces lasting changes in brain activity, takes less time than standard TMS and is as effective as standard TMS.

Who Can Benefit from TMS?

We currently offer TMS to patients who have not responded to standard treatments for major depression. If you are interested in TMS, you will meet with one of our clinicians to carefully review your medical history, current symptoms and past treatments.

To be eligible for TMS treatment, you must not have:

  • Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
  • Any metal implants in the skull

Research and Clinical Trials

UC San Diego Health is leading innovations in treatments for psychiatric disorders. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial or research study, talk to your UC San Diego Health provider.

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