Doctor: ‘Dramatic’ results in depression treatment
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News June 19, 2012 12:50PM
Psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Wuest applies the headpiece used for transcranial magnetic stimulation. The magnetic waves in TMS are simliar to an MRI, but the procedure is less complex. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:01AM
ROMEOVILLE — A new treatment for depression is having what one psychiatrist calls “dramatic” results.
Dr. Ronald Wuest of the Institute for Personal Development said his Romeoville location is the first in the Joliet area to offer TMS, short for transcranial magnetic stimulation. It uses the same magnetic energy used in MRIs to stimulate areas of the brain into overcoming the effects of depression.
But unlike an MRI, the new procedure doesn’t involve sliding into a dark claustrophobic tunnel. The magnetic energy is applied through a headpiece worn while the patient is sitting up in a chair.
Wuest has been using the treatment since January on his patients whose depression hasn’t responded to several trials of oral medication.
“Studies have found that about half of patients respond positively to TMS, and a third go into remission,” he said, “which is pretty significant. But in our experience, it’s much higher. We’ve had dramatic responses.”
Minimal side effects
And the side effects, he said, unlike those with medications, are virtually nil. Side effects with the most commonly used anti-depression pills can cause diarrhea, an upset stomach, nausea, headaches, dry mouth, impotence, anorgasmia, weight gain and mild tremors.
With TMS treatment, he said, occasionally there might be a headache.
“Oral medications can affect the entire body,” he said, “not just the brain ... TMS targets a very specific part of the brain.”
Wuest explained that depression results when areas of the brain, such as the limbic system, are too low in the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Pills work by keeping those chemicals around to stimulate the nerves longer.
Magnetic therapy directly stimulates the nerves by creating very mild electrical currents. Wuest typically gives his patients 25 treatments, about five a week. It takes around 40 minutes for each treatment. But the relief goes well beyond the treatment time. Studies show that patients’ depression may go away for months or even years after the treatment, he said.
Other treatment options
The procedure is relatively new, and Wuest said electroshock therapy, or ECT, is still the gold standard for treatment of severe depression.
“ECT can be life-saving,” he said. “It’s about 80 percent effective, which is better than TMS, but it’s much more invasive.”
Electroshock, he said, involves anesthesia, which has its own risks, a recovery period of a couple of hours in the office, then one or two days off work, and usually memory problems that can last for months.
TMS can be a much gentler treatment for those who respond to it, he said. It also has great potential for treating other mental disorders. Wuest said initial studies have shown good responses in using it to treat Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorders, chronic pain, tinnitus and fibromyalgia.
“I think it’s amazingly revolutionary,” he said.
The Institute for Personal Development’s website is www.ipd.md.