Jan 30, 2013 9:02 AM by Samantha Ptashkin
TUCSON- For 65-year-old Claudia Bradley, a trip to her psychiatrist is a journey out of the darkness.
"Depression for me is like being in a dark hole," Bradley says. "There is no sunlight and there is no end to the darkness I'm in."
Bradley has suffered from depression for the past 60 years. She has tried just about everything to treat her depression, from pills to acupuncture. "It would help to some degree, but then it would not and then I would become severely depressed again," Bradley says.
Then her psychiatrist suggested a non-invasive, FDA approved therapy called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS. "Most of my patients are people who have been treatment- resistant to many types of trial medications," says Dr. Saul Perea.
Here's how it works. The doctor uses a machine to deliver magnetic force to the brain. The current stimulates the brain cells thought to control mood. "Within two or three weeks, people who have never felt good before just start to wake up," Dr. Perea says.
The treatment typically takes four to six weeks, with visits to the doctor every day.
Bradley started noticing a change within the first week. "I had joy in my life, which I hadn't had on a continuous basis for many years," Bradley says.
Over the past three years Dr. Perea has treated 50 patients, ranging in age from 18 to almost 80.
However, Dr. Kevin Goeta-Kreisler, who also practices psychiatry, says the treatment is not always for everyone, including patients with bi-polar disorder and typically patients older than 65. "The theory is that as we age, our brains shrink and that space is taken up by fluid." Dr. Goeta-Kreisler says. "For the stimulus from the magnet to get in area of brain that needs to be stimulated it's further to get to."
Besides that, patients have to consider the cost. The treatment runs at around $10,000 and isn't covered by insurance.
But Bradley says the price is worth paying if it means getting her life back. "I would be depressed and suicidal." Bradley says. "I don't feel that way anymore."
Dr. Perea says the only side effects his patients have mentioned are minor headaches.
It's also important to note that there is no guarantee TMS will permanently cure depression.