The first question that people ask us if often, “Does TMS Work?” The second question is usually, “How Long Does TMS Last For?”
The TMS treatment itself consists of 30 sessions over 6 weeks. Individuals come to our office 5 times per week during this period. The second phase consists of an optional taper, where individuals come in 3 times per week, and then twice per week, and finally one time during the final week. So, while this is technically up to a 9-week treatment, the bulk of the treatment takes place during 6 weeks. Still, some people may wonder how long the effects of TMS persist for.
The answer is complicated. In general, our experience is that the benefits of TMS last for quite some time. Sometimes, individuals come to us for TMS treatment, and are completely relieved from their depressive symptoms. These individuals may not suffer from episodes of depression anymore. These individuals may discontinue all medications, or reduce medication dosages, if they are inclined.
Other individuals may do very well for years with an increased positive outlook on life, but then slowly relapse into an episode of depression. The individuals in this latter group tend to agree that TMS has changed how depression feels for them; the depression is not as severe as it once were. The good news is that, if individuals do get depressed again, it is very easy to get insurance to cover a second round of TMS treatment. We work meticulously with insurance companies to get individuals approved for additional rounds of TMS, if need be.
There is a very small, third group of individuals. These individuals may have done 30 sessions of TMS successfully, followed by a three-week taper period. After the last phase of the taper, they may slowly begin to experience symptoms of depression again. These individuals may qualify for “Maintenance TMS,” which involves coming in once per week and receiving TMS treatment. Unfortunately, this treatment is not covered by insurance for many individuals.
Nonetheless, the research on the durability of TMS is surprisingly solid. Mantovani et al., (2012) examined the long-term efficacy of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation among individuals with treatment-resistant depression. They found that after three months, only 2.7% of patients relapsed into depression. This study provides evidence that TMS is a treatment that causes the benefits to persist long after the treatment has ended, unlike traditional anti-depressant medication.
Other studies have examined the durability of TMS therapy over the course of one year after treatment. Dunner et al. (2014) looked at the long-term success rates for TMS treatment for individuals with treatment-resistant depression. Since prior to beginning treatment, patients felt, on average, more than 50% better. In fact, the rates of response were about 60% after one year, and the rates of remission over 30%. These numbers reflect the exact same data that is consistent with the literature. Janicak et al. (2010) found similar results over a 6-month follow-up for individuals who had completed 30 sessions of TMS. Janicak’s group found that TMS was not only durable, with effects lasting far longer than the treatment, but that over 80% of individuals benefitted significantly from TMS therapy. These individuals saw significant decreases in depression scores and life experiences.
If you or your loved one is seeking a short treatment for depression that lasts a long time, do not hesitate to give us a call at (866) 867-4519.