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Medications and therapy alone aren’t always enough to treat depression. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) offers new hope to people struggling with depression.

TMS is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe and effective outpatient treatment for people with depression who haven’t responded to or cannot take standard medication therapy. It works by stimulating key areas of the brain without the need for anesthesia and without the side effects that can come with antidepressant medicines.

At Atrium Health, our Brain Stimulation Services team has specialized training and certification in TMS therapy and has helped patients achieve excellent results. Studies show TMS can provide lasting relief for some patients.

How Does TMS Work?

This simple, non-invasive therapy delivers short, repetitive magnetic pulses to stimulate and “reset” specific areas of the brain that help control your mood.

During treatment, an electromagnetic coil is positioned over a specific spot on your head, usually near your forehead. The pulses only reach the outer layers of the brain, but lead to effects deep in the brain that can control mood.

Advantages of TMS 

TMS has a number of benefits. For example, it is:

  • Non-invasive.
  • Very low risk.
  • Convenient. It is performed in-office by a certified technician and does not require any sedation. That means patients don’t have to rely on others to drive them home or back to work.
  • Limited on side effects. TMS doesn’t have the side effects typical of many antidepressant medications (for example, nausea, weight gain, fatigue, dry mouth or reduced sex drive).

What to Expect

  • You will typically receive 20 to 36 treatment sessions over four to eight weeks as determined by your treatment team.
  • Each session is conveniently performed in our offices with no need for anesthesia or sedation, so you can drive and resume daily activities right away.
  • Treatments usually take less than 45 minutes. Your first appointment will be longer to help determine the correct dose for you.
  • You will sit comfortably in what looks like a dentist’s chair.
  • Your technician will properly position the TMS device and coil over your head and start treatment, which makes a clicking sound. You will be given ear plugs for your comfort.
  • Some patients report having a slight headache or tingling sensation near where the treatment is being delivered, but these usually stop or are no longer bothersome after one or two sessions.

Think of TMS as another tool in the toolbox for treating depression. It can be used alone or in combination with other therapies, and our team will coordinate with your mental health provider to ensure you receive the best possible care.

As with most treatments, you may need to give the therapy some time to work. Your care team will keep close tabs on your progress, and is specially trained to adjust the device as needed. 

Is TMS Right for Me?

You may benefit from TMS if:

  • Your depression symptoms interfere with your daily life
  • Traditional medications to treat depression haven’t worked – by the time patients are referred for TMS, they are usually about to start on a fourth depression medication
  • You’re not satisfied with the results you get from your medication(s)
  • You cannot tolerate the side effects of your medication(s)
  • You have an illness that limits your ability to take medications for depression

Certain people should not receive TMS therapy, including anyone with:

  • An aneurysm clip
  • Stents above the neck
  • Metal implants or fragments in the head (not including dental fillings, crowns or braces)

For more information, please call 704-512-7578.

Our TMS Locations

Patients can be seen at the following locations; however, TMS is only offered at the Charlotte location. A mental health provider needs to make a referral for this service.

Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health-Charlotte

501 Billingsley Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28211

Carolinas HealthCare System-Davidson

16740 Davidson-Concord Rd. (Hwy 73)
Davidson, NC 28036