Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive, outpatient treatment for depression. It uses an “electromagnetic coil” — a device that produces magnetic energy — to stimulate nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls mood.
Sending magnetic pulses to these nerve cells may help them work better. For many people, this improves symptoms of depression — even when standard treatments like antidepressants and therapy haven't helped.
Rush is home to one of the leading TMS treatment centers in the Chicago area. Since we started offering this procedure more than a decade ago, we’ve delivered more than 2 million treatments.
Advantages of TMS Therapy
TMS has many advantages:
- It's effective — most people who complete a course of TMS therapy find relief from their depression symptoms
- It's noninvasive — no medications, sedation or surgery
- There’s no down time — you can drive yourself back to your home or work, and resume your normal activities, immediately after treatment
- It's covered by most major insurance plans, including Medicare
- It has fewer side effects than antidepressants
What to Expect During TMS Therapy
Each TMS session at Rush lasts about 20 minutes. Most people have five sessions a week for four to six weeks, with an average of 30 to 36 total treatments.
During your session, you'll sit in a reclined chair. A certified registered nurse will place the magnetic device on the left side of your forehead. It will send short pulses of magnetic energy to specific areas in your brain that regulate mood.
Side Effects of TMS Therapy
Although side effects are uncommon, some people experience a mild headache or scalp discomfort. These typically go away once the treatment is over.
The most serious (but rare) side effect associated with TMS therapy is seizures. However, the risk of seizures is very low.
TMS Therapy Success Rate
Among patients who have TMS therapy at Rush:
- 50% feel significantly better
- 30% get moderate relief
- 20% experience no change
Relief typically lasts about a year. After a year, if symptoms return, you may want to come in for another round of TMS therapy.
How to Get Started
To find out if you’re a candidate for TMS therapy, call us at (312) 942-7316. You’ll undergo a screening process that includes the following:
- A 30-minute informational phone call: One of our nurses will ask you questions about your history of depression, including your current symptoms and other treatments you’ve tried. We’ll also ask questions that help us understand whether you can safely have TMS. (For example, you may not be eligible if you have screws or other metal surgical devices in your head or neck).
- A one-on-one psychiatric consultation: You’ll meet with one of our psychiatrists to discuss your treatment history and goals. Together we’ll determine whether TMS is right for you, and whether you’re ready to commit to a full course of therapy.
- Insurance authorization: Our team will work with your health insurance provider to ensure your treatments are approved and will be covered.
Once you’re approved for treatment by Rush and your insurance provider, we’ll begin scheduling your series of appointments.
Rush Excellence in TMS Therapy
- Leaders in the field: Rush was part of the clinical trial that led to FDA approval of TMS therapy to treat depression.
- The most experienced TMS therapy experts in Chicago: Providers at Rush have performed millions of TMS treatments — more than any other team in Chicago. This experience has sharpened their understanding of when TMS therapy is likely to help (and when it's not).
- Experts in treatment-resistant depression: Psychiatrists and psychologists at Rush specialize in depression that doesn't respond to psychotherapy and antidepressants. Based on your specific history and symptoms, they can help determine the best next steps. This may include TMS therapy or other treatments for treatment-resistant depression, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or esketamine (Spravato), a nasal spray.