Neuronavigation technology is revolutionizing medical treatments ranging from complex brain surgeries to non-invasive therapies such as TMS. This computer-guided imaging helps doctors locate specific areas of the brain and guide treatment in and around fragile brain tissue to help patients suffering from a wide range of conditions.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how neuronavigation technology is helping patients with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders get relief from their symptoms with a higher success rate. If you suffer from depression and haven’t found relief from medications or counseling, then TMS therapy might be able to help.
What Is TMS Therapy?
TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a non-invasive FDA-cleared therapy. It is typically used to treat patients suffering from depression who have not found medications or psychotherapy (talk therapy) to be an effective treatment for their symptoms.
During TMS therapy, the device arm containing a coil is placed against the patient’s scalp near the forehead. Magnetic pulses (similar to those used in an MRI) are used to stimulate nerve cells in the region of the patient’s brain that controls mood, and thus depression symptoms. Patients remain awake throughout treatment sessions and are typically able to return to their normal activities immediately afterward with little to no side effects.
Research has found that 58% of patients who undergo TMS therapy experience significant improvement in their symptoms. The remission rate for patients who receive TMS therapy was found to be 37%.
What Is Neuronavigation Technology?
Pinpointing specific nerve groups and areas of the brain has been made easier by innovative computer-assisted neuronavigation technology. This technology provides doctors with real-time imagery guidance that can be extremely useful during both surgeries and non-invasive therapies such as TMS where doctors need to be able to target very specific groups of nerves within the brain.
How Does Neuronavigation Technology Impact TMS Therapy Specifically?
When neuronavigation technology is incorporated into TMS therapy, it is referred to as neuronavigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS). Studies have found that nTMS significantly improves the likelihood of the TMS coil being placed in the correct spot on a patient’s scalp as opposed to non-neuronavigated techniques. In fact, neuronavigation technology gives doctors the ability to target brain cell clusters accurately down to a few millimeters.
Because the TMS coil must be placed directly above specific mood-related nerve groups in order for the treatment to be successful, it is imperative that doctors are able to locate the correct region of the brain. Neuronavigation technology gives doctors a better view of their patients’ unique brain anatomy. Without neuronavigation technology, doctors must rely solely on less accurate methods such as using external measurements or trial and error (stimulating muscle responses such as a finger twitch to target nerves within the brain) in order to locate the cortical target.
Who Can Benefit From nTMS?
TMS therapy using neuronavigation technology can help patients suffering from various anxiety and mood disorders including:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- General anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Certain migraine headaches
Your doctor will go over your medical history prior to your first treatment. It is important to let your doctor know if you are pregnant or have any metal implants or fragments in your body. Patients who have metal coils, clips, stents, or implants in their head are not good candidates for TMA therapy because the magnetic pulses could heat up or move metal pieces within the brain, causing serious injury.
What Are the Side Effects Associated with nTMS Therapy?
One of the major reasons patients seek nTMS therapy is because it presents fewer side effects than many pharmaceutical treatments for the same conditions. The most common side effects associated with TMS include headache, lightheadedness, tingling, and/or mild discomfort or twitching of the facial muscles around where the coil is placed during treatment.
In contrast, the common side effects associated with SSRI antidepressants include decreased sex drive, insomnia, nausea, joint and muscle pain, increased risk of internal bleeding, and skin rashes.
What Should I Expect During nTMS Therapy?
TMS therapy with neuronavigation technology guidance typically consists of one treatment per day, five days per week over a course of several weeks. Your exact treatment regimen will be determined by your doctor based on your medical history and the condition being treated. In some cases, nTMS therapy may be used in combination with medication or other treatments.
Each session takes approximately 20 – 45 minutes, and you will be able to resume your normal activities, including driving, immediately afterwards. Treatment begins with the device arm containing a coil being placed above the targeted nerve groups. Once it is placed in the right spot, magnetic pulses will be emitted. Let your doctor know if you experience any discomfort. You will be able to read, talk, listen to music and function as you normally would during treatment, provided you remain seated and try to keep as still as possible.
For more information on TMS therapy and neuronavigation technology visit Aspire Regenerative. Our San Diego clinicians can answer any questions and develop a personalized care plan to help you reach your health and wellness goals, whether you’re suffering from depression or other conditions.