JOHNSTOWN - Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy may be a relatively new treatment for depression, but it already has proven its worth to some.
Lynn Briggs of Fort Plain is one of those people, and said she is on a mission to make sure people know TMS may be an option for them.
As far as she's concerned, it saved her life.
Dr. Edward Valentine, a board-certified psychiatrist, and Janet?Briggs, in chair, demonstrate how the Neurostar TMS machine works at Valentines office in the town of Johnstown on Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
"I feel if I had not started TMS therapy, I would not be here today," Briggs said.
Dr. Edward Valentine, board-certified psychiatrist, offers TMS therapy at his office on Steele Avenue Extension.
Valentine - who has been offering the therapy since January 2011, and has had 19 patients undergo the treatment -?said the therapy is very different from others, such as medication.
"It's a paradigm shift," he said. "We're talking about upgrading a neural network."
The website for Valentine's office - www.mohawkhudsontmscenter.com - notes TMS therapy works by using a highly focused pulsed magnetic field, from a machine called the Neurostar TMS, to stimulate the area of the brain that controls mood.
"Similar to training a muscle, brain systems can be stimulated intermittently and over time this can increase the activity and effectiveness of that brain system," the website said. "When the Neurostar TMS, using a powerful electromagnet, creates a pulsating magnetic field in a specific area of the brain, the nerve cells are stimulated to fire [send messages] more frequently."
Valentine notes on the website that he followed the development of TMS from the 1980s to TMS receiving FDA approval in 2008 for patients suffering from depression who have not benefitted from anti-depressant medication.
"As the large studies of TMS were published over the last few years I was excited to see a response in alleviating depression at least equal to the effectiveness of medications without any of the systemic side effects," Valentine said on the website. "By late 2010, my visits to clinics providing TMS convinced me that TMS needed to be made available to those in our area who continue to suffer from depression."
Briggs had tried different medications to solve her depression, even undergone electroconvulsive therapy, before the therapist she was with suggested visiting Valentine.
Briggs started seeing Valentine in?May 2011, which eventually lead to her learning about TMS.
Briggs had some concerns about?TMS. She questioned why it would work, after other therapies had failed to provide a long-term answer.
The cost - about $11,000 for the treatment - was a concern as well, she said.
"When I was depressed, [the cost] was all consuming," Briggs said.
However, her depression also played a role in keeping her from pursuing TMS.
Depression,?Briggs said, is a very lonely, isolating disease. It is very easy to get caught in a downward spiral, she said, and to feel worthless. She pointed out it can be a hard disease to understand, even for those who suffer with it. Depression is not a disease like cancer, she said as an example, which is more tangible.
Briggs said a patient of Dr. Valentine's who used TMS contacted her to talk about the treatment. Briggs said the female patient described the procedure and reported positive results, saying she was happy for the first time in 61 years.
But Briggs, suffering from depression, hesitant to pursue TMS.
"I thought, 'I cannot have that'" she said, describing her reaction to the other woman's story.
However, by November she made the decision to start the TMS therapy.
The outpatient procedure is performed in Valentine's office while the patient is awake. The typical initial course of treatment is administered for about 37 minutes daily during a four- to six-week period.
During a treatment session, the website notes, 3,000 pulses are applied over 37 minutes. Minimally uncomfortable pulses are given for four seconds, followed by a 26-second pulse-free period. This is repeated for 37 minutes, five days a week.
Valentine said during the treatment, there can be discomfort from muscles in the scalp contracting. While the amount of pain felt depends on the patient, he noted no one has stopped treatment because of it.
Briggs has had two follow up booster treatments -consisting of about one session a week for 5 weeks - since the initial therapy in November.
Briggs said the treatment "has changed my whole life."
She has been planning projects and trips, and has started running again.
"I have energy, ambition and a desire to live I didn't have for a very long time," Briggs said.
Before the treatments, she said, a bad day was "like the end of the world."
In comparison, a bad day now makes her think, "Guess what? There's tomorrow."
"You still have life, issues and bad days happen, but you are better able to handle those now," Briggs said.
While the cost the treatment was a concern for her, looking back on the situation, she asked "Could I put an $11,000 price tag on life?"
Part of overcoming her depression, Briggs said, was realizing she deserved to be happy and treated for the disease she suffered from.
Eventually, the cost for the treatment was greatly reduced.?While her insurance company initially declined to cover the procedure, a separate court of appeals - where her case was reviewed by three independent doctors - determined TMS was medically necessary for Briggs. The decision reduced her cost to about $200.
Both Valentine and Briggs said the major reason more people have not pursued the treatment is the cost
Valentine said by offering this treatment, he has to educate not only patients, but the people at insurance companies as well.
"Really, that's the major barrier," Valentine said.
However, Briggs said, the bill for her TMS therapy was about 1/3 of the total for one of her?ECT treatments.
While she knows ECT treatments have helped other people, she said the treatments left her with some memory loss and were not a solution to her depression.
When she talks to people about her experiences, though, there is a main point she wants people to understand, she said: "There is hope."
For more information about TMS therapy, visit www.mohawkhudsontmscenter.com