Zapping Depression

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 10:07am

New magnetic stimulation helps patients conquer depression.

Depression affects more than 18-million Americans.

For many medications provide little relief or lots of side effects.

Now some patients are turning to a new magnetic therapy that is helping to repel their symptoms.

Walt Steever has battled severe depression for 30 years.

"When it's not treated it's terrible. You go into a deep black hole. You don't want to do anything," he says.

That black hole affected his work, family, even his driving.

Antidepressants offered moderate relief with many side effects including headaches, nausea and dry mouth.

After consulting Dr. Saad Shacker, Walt opted to try a totally different treatment, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS.

A small curved device rests on Walt's head and delivers magnetic stimulation directly to a golf ball-sized section of the brain scientist believe helps regulate mood.

Dr. Shacker says the treatment targets underactive neuotransmitters in the brain.

"We stimulate them to stimulate the activity and improvement of functioning," he says.

Even though Walt's jaw chatters violently during the treatments, he insists it doesn't hurt.

He then rests for 26 seconds.

The pattern continues for 37 and a half minutes.

After undergoing the FDA approved treatment five times a week for five weeks Walt says he's a new man.

"It's absolutely astonishing what the treatments have achieved," he says.

Because the treatment is localized to the brain patients avoid the side effects of medications.

"No weight gain, sexual disfunction, fatigue, lethargy, sleeping too much. That's what's remarkable," says Dr. Shakir.

Of the patients Dr. Shacker have treated with TMS more than half have been able to significantly reduce the number of antidepressants they were taking or get off their meds entirely.

Most patients were able to keep their depression at bay for months.

"The TMS trials, 90 percent are remission free the first six months," he says.

TMS is not for everyone.

Dr. Shacker still recommends patients try antidepressants first, and it's not a cure for depression.

Most patients, including Walt, will have to return for maintenance sessions.

He considers it a small price to pay to shine light on the darkness that once consumed him.

"I feel great. I wished I had this 30 years ago," he says.

TMS treatment costs $8,000-$12,000 depending on how many sessions you need.

Some insurance providers may cover a portion of the costs.

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