With about 30% of depressed patients not responsive to traditional antidepressants, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an approved and largely effective alternative for many Canadians. There are two basic forms of TMS—rTMS and dTMS.

The variant of the therapy known as rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) has been approved in Canada since 2002.  For the cohort of patients unresponsive to medications, approximately 50% see improvements with rTMS, while about 30% achieve remission.

Canada is leading the way for low-cost rTMS treatment

Dr. Jonathan Downar, a researcher in Toronto at the Krembil Research Institute, is attempting to prove that rTMS can be self-administered by patients in their homes. Portable rTMS machines that have been approved by Health Canada are already on the market, so Dr. Downar believes the next logical step is to have patients perform their own treatments. One major benefit of this would be that the cost per session would dip below the $5 mark.

With most patients requiring about 20-30 sessions to receive benefits, this translates to a very significant savings, particularly if the treatments remain uncovered by provincial health plans.

rTMS and dTMS basics

rTMS is a non-invasive therapy that involves the use of a figure 8 coil to transmit magnetic impulses to the brain. There is no pain involved and either a doctor or a nurse practitioner must refer a patient for treatment.

Another form of TMS, deep TMS (dTMS), provides more extensive coverage of the brain via an H-shaped coil. dTMS also allows for a deeper level into the brain at approximately 4cm. Both rTMS and dTMS treatments are administered over a time period of between 4-6 weeks. Twenty minute dTMS sessions are generally shorter than the circa 37 minute sessions for rTMS.

With the prevalence of mental health concerns growing, rTMS and other forms of TMS will be more accessible to the Canadian public in the coming years, and Canadian researchers are in the forefront of the process.

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