UCSD Health offers depression procedure that ‘will revolutionize how we treat mental health’
For many people with depression, medication and therapy are a powerful combination of treatments. But for those with treatment-resistant depression, UC San Diego Health offers another option.
It’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, and UCSD Health now has the largest and most advanced TMS clinic in the region.
TMS is a non-invasive procedure approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration that involves using a hand-held coil to apply a series of short magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain known to be associated with major depression.
“This causes neurons to fire synchronously,” said Dr. Zafiris “Jeff” Daskalakis, chair of the UCSD Department of Psychiatry. “This synchronization drives neuroplasticity, or the rewiring of the brain.”
With treatment, Daskalakis said, “people don’t have depression anymore.”
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According to UCSD Health, one-third to one-half of patients with treatment-resistant depression are symptom-free after treatment with TMS. Others may experience an improvement in their mood and then find that antidepressants, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes (like diet and exercise) provide further relief.
For most patients, treatment involves sessions lasting five to 60 minutes, with five sessions per week for four to six weeks, Daskalakis said. He added that 90% of patients experience few or no side effects. At worst, he says, some might get a mild headache afterwards, which usually subsides within 24 hours.
The treatment is performed in an office and does not require anesthesia or sedation; patients remain awake during the procedure. They can return to normal daily life immediately after treatment, Daskalakis said.
“I think this will revolutionize the way we deal with mental health and change lives,” Daskalakis said. “[Patients] obtain a significant improvement in the quality of life. They sleep better, their worries are down, that’s a very robust answer. It’s very reassuring. We can offer this very effective, safe and well tolerated treatment. »
Daskalakis was previously a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and co-director of the Temerty Center for Therapeutic Brain Intervention, where the treatment was refined.
Prior to the use of TMS, he said, “people suffered in silence or tried drug trial after drug trial with no success.”
Once a person has tried a number of depression medications that have proven ineffective, the person may be considered a candidate for TMS. The process to consider depends on your insurer.
The UCSD facility is looking to embark on an accelerated treatment trial program through which patients would undergo multiple sessions per day for fewer days. “There is very interesting data that suggests multiple bursts in one day will shorten the treatment period,” Daskalakis said. The risks are considered “very remote” and similar to those of antidepressants, he said.
“Depression is one of the leading causes of disease burden worldwide,” Daskalakis said. “This is what has the most impact on the economy. Cardiovascular disease and cancer affect more people, but these people are often older. Depression affects people in their prime.
Clinics are located at 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive in La Jolla and 16918 Dove Canyon Road at 4S Ranch. Learn more about health.ucsd.edu/specialties/behavioral-mental-health and click on “Treatment of depression”.
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