Oct 25, 2008

TMS For Depression -- It's Coming

Those who have much involvement with the Social Security Administration know that the primary work of the agency is adjudicating disability claims. Depression is an incredibly important element in producing disability. It may be the most commonly encountered illness in disability claims. Depression is often the primary cause of depression and is even more common as a complication to the treatment of physical illness or as a cause of somatization. Often, depression is so intertwined with a claimant's other health problems that it is impossible to say how much of the person's disability is due to depression and how much is due to other illnesses.

Any new treatment for depression is potentially quite important to Social Security. On October 8, 2008 the Food and Drug Administration approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as a treatment for depression.

Here is a description of TMS from Wikipedia:
TMS is simply the application of the principle of induction to get electrical current across the insulating tissues of the scalp and skull without discomfort. A coil of wire, encased in plastic, is held to the head. When the coil is energized by the rapid discharge of a large capacitor, a rapidly changing current flows in its windings. This produces a magnetic field oriented orthogonally to the plane of the coil. The magnetic field passes unimpeded through the skin and skull, inducing an oppositely directed current in the brain that flows tangentially with respect to skull. The current induced in the structure of the brain activates nearby nerve cells in much the same way as currents applied directly to the cortical surface.
Unlike Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), TMS does not require anesthesia. There are far fewer side effects. It appears that TMS could be easily used routinely by psychiatrists. It will take time to tell if this will be used only rarely, as is the case with ECT, but anything that holds out hope for those suffering from depression, especially those who do not respond to medication is important.

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