Bellevue Club member Alex Bard and Dr. Kalyan Dandala work for Associated Behavioral Health Care, a local facility dedicated to giving patients who suffer from depression a cutting-edge, alternative solution to pharmaceuticals. They specialize in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) technology and gave us a rundown of exactly what that means.
What is TMS?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been around for a long time. In 1985 it started as a research tool. Scientists used magnetic pulsations to map the brain, and they noticed many patients were saying the protocol gave them more energy. Now, this kind of stimulation is FDA-approved to treat depression. But, it also shows great promise for treating anxiety, ADHD and other mental health conditions without medication.
How does it work on the brain?
The pulsations reawaken neurons that can go dormant from stress, trauma or genetics. Many people come to us and say they’ve always felt depressed because they’ve never been stimulated the way they need to. It works directly on the areas of the prefrontal cortex that are associated with ADHD, anxiety and depression.
What are common misconceptions of TMS?
Many patients associate it with shock therapy. It is not the same thing at all. Also, it’s safe enough for patients to drive themselves. There’s no anesthesia.'
What is your success rate with this procedure?
We’ve served more than 500,000 people in King County so far. Thirty-seven percent of patients go into remission for at least a year.
With a success rate so high, why don’t more people utilize this protocol?
Most primary care doctors haven’t heard of it. They are on the frontlines and dealing with large numbers of patients, so they don’t always have the time to educate themselves on the new procedures coming out and all the innovations. They can’t always know the latest and greatest. Also, it’s a largely acad
emically driven procedure. It doesn’t have big pharmaceutical companies behind it.
How do you know if someone is a good candidate for TMS?
Anyone feeling depressed is a good candidate. Typically, depression patients have happy moments but often they describe them as fleeting and rare. They don’t stay in those mom
ents. Someone without depression is generally living in those happy moments day to day.
Are there any side effects or dangers?
There are no negative side effects. Some people describe a little scalp discomfort where the magnetic components are placed. But it’s very mild. Interestingly, some positive side effects include improved memory and cognition.
Are there any inspirational success stories you can share?
Yes, we talked to a local police officer who said he was suicidal and severely depressed for 30 to 40 years of his life. He came to us, and for the first time he said he can talk and enjoy conversations with people. He has a life now. We also had a couple that came in and they both had the therapy. It helped the whole family and they said it saved their marriage and family.
Is this procedure safe enough for children?
Right now the FDA has not approved it for children. But we are hoping for an indication [approval] within the year. That would be incredible because more children could get help without putting meds on their brain; instead it would actually increase neuronal growth and activity.
Is there anyone who isn’t a good candidate for TMS?
Yes, people with bipolar mania. In some cases, it seems to make it worse.
What is in store for the future of this technology?
We are very optimistic that more and more indications [FDA-approved uses] are going to be coming in the near future. It shows great promise for people who suffer from schizophrenia. Also, we’d like to see this technology become more portable. Right now patients have to come into the office Monday through Friday for 20 mins, for six weeks. Hopefully soon we will be able to provide the procedure to patients in their home.