"We wanted to address the question of whether the benefit of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) can be sustained over a reasonable time," said Dr. Philip Janicak, the leader of the research study, who is a professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. "Based on this trial, the answer is yes."
Although this one study is far too small to provide definitive and absolute results, it does indicate that the beneficial effects of TMS can be sustained for a period of over 6 months, and the treatment can be done safely. While using TMS in conjunction with antidepressant medications, there were no increased associated risks.
The study was published in the October 2010 issue of Brain Stimulation.
The scientific researchers grouped and organized 301 people who had been previously diagnosed with depression into two main groups: those who would be receiving either real or fake magnetic therapy for a period of about 6 weeks. The fake, or placebo, treatments had a similar feel to the real one.
The 142 participants who received and had a good response to the actual magnetic therapy treatments then went on to enter a 21 day transitional phase. During this phase, the participants were tapered off of the TMS treatments and then began a regimen of prescribed anti-depressant medications.
Of those 142 patients, 121 of them (or about 85%) completed the transitional phase of the treatment without suffering a relapse, and 99 of the participants agreed to enter a 24 week, follow-up study.
During this 24 week period, only 10 of the 99 participants (or about 10%) had a relapse of symptoms. Of the 38 participants who did experience a worsening of symptoms, which required additional TMS treatments, 32 of them (84%) experienced improvement and avoided having further relapses. At the end of the day, 75% of the study participants had a sustained, and complete positive response to the treatments.