Doctors and patients are showing increased interest in brain stimulation therapy to treat depression that doesn’t respond to standard antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. It has been estimated that up to 40% of people diagnosed with the most severe form of depression (major depressive disorder [MDD]) either don’t respond or stop responding to antidepressants or they are unable to tolerate their side effects.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a non-invasive method of brain stimulation that relies on electromagnetic induction using an insulated coil placed over the scalp, is effective in 30 to 50% of patients with treatment-resistant depression. Since the magnetic stimulation is targeted to only a small area of the brain, patients experience few or no side effects.
In May 2015, the Magstim Rapid2 Therapy System was approved by the FDA for the treatment of drug resistant MDD, increasing clinician and patient access to rTMS therapy. Despite the availability of rTMS treatment to patients in Canada, rTMS is not yet covered by government health insurance in most provinces.