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Brain stimulation provides relief to patients experiencing medication-resistant depression

Baptist Health offers a minimally-invasive, targeted magnetic stimulation therapy to help alleviate major depressive disorder.

Jacksonville, FL

As part of a commitment to provide cutting-edge clinical care for patients with debilitating mental illnesses, Baptist Behavioral Health has joined with Neuronetics to offer brain stimulation therapy to help individuals suffering from severe depression who have not had success with antidepressant medications.

Neuronetics’ NeuroStar ® Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure that uses a pulsed magnetic field to stimulate specific brain regions known to regulate mood. The NeuroStar System is the first TMS device cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression.

The therapy uses highly focused, MRI-like magnetic pulses to excite nerve cells in the area of the brain responsible for controlling mood. Performed in an outpatient office of Baptist Behavioral Health, patients are left awake, alert and comfortable throughout the entire procedure. This stimulation alters blood flow and metabolic activity, improving a patient’s mood without the use of medication.

During the treatment, which lasts less than 30 minutes, patients hear a clicking sound and feel a light tapping sensation. A typical treatment course lasts four to six weeks, but patients can resume normal activities immediately after each session.

“Medications and behavioral therapy are often first-line treatments for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and panic disorders, but not all cases of major depression respond to these interventions,” said Terrie Andrews, PhD, system administrator for Baptist Behavioral Health. “We have many programs to support a variety of mental health issues and TMS is a part of the treatment-resistant depression program at Baptist Health, which includes Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). TMS provides a well-researched, promising technique for people with major depression who are not responsive to drug therapy and we continue to see positive results.”

Baptist Health was the first health system in the Jacksonville area to offer this treatment. According to Neuronetics, the technology has treated more than 90,000 patients nationally since 2008.

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 7.1% of American adults – more than 17 million people – experience major depressive disorder each year. Major depression involves severe symptoms such as a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in everyday activities that hinder a person’s ability to function and enjoy life.

“TMS therapy is a safe, well researched, FDA cleared and effective procedure,” said Savitha Puttaiah, MD, a psychiatrist and medical director for Baptist Behavioral Health. “As the global pandemic, accompanying economic recession and other unprecedented societal crises dominate our everyday lives, we are seeing a parallel increase in mental health crises across all age groups. We need as many tools as possible in our toolbox to combat depression, and TMS may function as a valuable tool to alleviating suffering and help with recovery. This non-drug treatment option can either act as an addition to the preexisting treatments you are currently on, or, can substitute your current treatment if you have not responded well to traditional medication options due to adverse effects and poor tolerance."

Ray*, a pharmacist at Baptist Medical Center South, experienced depression for many years and had spent nearly five years’ worth of doctors’ appointments and hospital visits searching for effective treatment when he learned he was a candidate for TMS therapy.

“I thought, ‘…I’m tired of being depressed, of overreacting, of having anxiety that cripples my ability to function. I have nothing to lose,’” Ray said.

Ray said he finally felt some relief for his depression immediately after starting treatments. He has since completed his scheduled TMS treatment sessions, and he believes that that the therapy made a difference for him when not much else had.

“I felt better after the first week,” Ray said. “I looked forward to going to these appointments. After I had the first treatment and was walking out to the car, I felt like I had more energy, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Each patient responds differently and at different points during treatment.

“Depression can be extremely debilitating, there is no reason to let it control you when there are providers willing to help you treat it and help you take back control of your life," said Shariq Refai, MD, a psychiatrist for Baptist Behavioral Health and the premier physician providing TMS treatment to patients. “Being able to offer this therapy to patients is very significant; you just let the magnet do its work.”

For more information on TMS treatment, mental health services, or to make an appointment with a mental health provider, visit Baptist Behavioral Health or call 904.376.3800.

*Name has been changed to protect patient confidentiality