ECT & TMS Therapies Explained

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) are often thrown around in the same conversation when we talk about physical brain therapy options. Though this is the case, it is important to note the significant differences between the two and how they compare and contrast with one another.

The Definitions of ECT and TMS

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment option that can be administered in an outpatient setting by a doctor and commonly has no side effects associated with it. By contrast, ECT uses an electric current, and is usually administered in a hospital because of its need for anesthesia, and has been associated with a wide variety of side effects including serious ones such as memory loss.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is an acronym for transcranial magnetic stimulation, which can also be referred to as ‘repetitive’ transcranial stimulation, or rTMS. TMS therapy is a non-invasive therapy procedure, utilizing electrical currents to create a magnetic field that stimulate the brain and neuronal activity in specific regions of the brain in order to create and repair neural pathways associated with depression.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

ECT is an acronym for electroconvulsive therapy, which is often referred to in layman’s terms as ‘electroshock’ therapy. This type of therapy constitutes directing an electrical current through the brain from electrodes that are attached directly to the scalp. The goal of this type of procedure is to intentionally cause a series of “generalized seizures”, though the therapy is generally regarded as a safe procedure despite the side effects it can cause.

Safety and Side Effects of ECT and TMS

Though both procedures directly affect the brain on a physical level, each are relatively safe when it comes to the potential for biological harm. Though ECT may be regarded as safe by the medical community as a whole, one must be aware of the many potential side effects associated with it before considering it as a therapy option. And though TMS is considered to be an even safer procedure, there are still minimal side effects and safety precautions that must be observed.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

There can be a number of potential side effects from ECT therapy including confusion, nausea, headaches or body aches followed by therapy sessions. Because of its need for anesthesia during the procedures, patients are typically observed by medical professionals for a period of time after each session before their release. Typically, ECT therapy has anywhere between 6 and 15 sessions initially that are spaced apart by a day or two. Though many patients experience relief from symptoms significantly, these tend to wear off after several months, making ECT a somewhat unreliable long-term solution.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Since TMS does not require any anesthesia the way ECT does, it does not carry the same risks of respiratory or cardiac arrest. Some patients may still experience headaches or discomfort in the area of the head and brain that are directly affected by the therapy, though typically these side effects are extremely short-term and subside as the intensity of the magnetic pulse is adjusted and reduced over time.

TMS therapy sessions are more frequent than ECT, typically consisting of 30-36 sessions that are carried out 5 days a week for 6-7 weeks. Though recovery from symptoms can take longer to onset than ECT, TMS provides a very durable treatment model where patients can retain relief from depression for upwards of a year or more.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Solution

If you believe that pharmacological treatment has been selling you short on the relief you want to achieve from depression, non-medication therapy may be the right option for you. If you would like to find out more information about TMS therapy and whether you qualify, contact Neuro Wellness Spa today.

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