Your Questions Answered
We understand that not everyone has heard of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). We also appreciate that the unknown can be frightening. Below, our team of patient advisors have pulled together a list of the questions they are asked most often.
If your question doesn’t appear in our FAQs, please contact the team, who will be happy to talk you through the treatment.
This stands for repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) and is the treatment we provide at Smart TMS. It’s called this because the magnetic treatment coil turns on and off quickly and repetitively. The magnetic pulses are focused on the exact area of the brain that causes the condition being treated. When we say TMS, we are referring to rTMS.
TMS is a safe procedure with over 20 years of research behind it. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved TMS as a safe and effective treatment for depression in 2015.
They’re similar, but different. rTMS uses a coil shaped like a figure of eight, which is placed on the scalp. dTMS uses an H-coil, which looks like a helmet and covers the whole head. rTMS sends magnetic pulses 2cm to 3cm into a precise area of the brain, while dTMS sends pulses 5cm to 6cm into a much larger, less focused area of the brain.
rTMS is the more commonly used treatment with a much larger research base worldwide.
Currently, there are very few NHS Foundation Trusts that offer TMS as a treatment for depression – and those that do tend to have long waiting lists. The treatment is only offered free of charge to a select number of patients who meet strict criteria – including living in the catchment area covered by the NHS Trust.
At Smart TMS, we want to help as many people as we can to achieve an improved quality of life through TMS treatment. We can provide guidance to patients on gaining funding from their NHS trust, so please contact the team if you would like advice.
Many private medical insurance companies are now considering covering the cost of treatment on a case by case basis. If you have private health insurance with AXA, WPA, Vitality, Allianz or Healix, please get in touch with our team and we can help with booking your treatment and processing your claim. If you are covered by another insurer, we recommend calling them to see if they will cover the cost of your treatment.
You can feel a tapping sensation on your scalp, but most people get used to it quickly. Your practitioner won’t increase the power of the treatment until you’re comfortable with the feeling of the magnetic pulses.
Some patients find that TMS makes their face twitch. This is nothing to worry about and will stop as soon as your treatment is finished.
You lie in a comfy chair while having the treatment, and although you can’t move your head, you can still read or listen to music to help you relax.
Your practitioner will stay in the room throughout your treatment to make sure you're comfortable and the treatment is running smoothly. Our practitioners are happy to chat or to sit quietly if you prefer to relax completely. Some patients even fall asleep during their treatment!
Most patients feel completely fine and can get on with their day as normal. A small number (one in ten) have a mild headache after treatment, which can be treated with painkillers as normal. Some patients feel tired after their treatment.
Most Smart TMS patients don’t experience any significant side effects. Side effects tend to be mild, to improve soon after the session, and to decrease over time with additional sessions.
Side effects can include:
- Mild headache
- Slight scalp discomfort
- Twitching face muscles
The risk of seizure is about 1 in 50,000 sessions of treatment (similar to the risk of seizures from taking antidepressants). We screen all patients for possible medical contraindications before we start treatment.
If you experience any side-effects during treatment, your practitioner will be there to help you. They may pause or reduce the strength of the treatment to make it more comfortable.
Most people respond well to TMS, and there are very few people the treatment isn’t suitable for.
Before starting treatment with Smart TMS, our clinicians will confirm that there are no reasons that you shouldn't be treated. The most common reason is magnetic material in your head, such as cochlear implants or shrapnel. Dental implants are normally non-magnetic, so will not mean you can't have treatment.
You can continue your sessions as normal, and should carry on taking any medication prescribed by your GP or psychiatrist throughout your TMS treatment.
Though you can refer yourself for TMS, we’ll ask for your permission to tell your GP or psychiatrist about your treatment with us, as being kept informed helps them give you the best possible care.
When your treatment comes to an end, your Smart TMS clinician will arrange a review to talk about your progress. Where your symptoms have reduced, he or she will explain our aftercare programme – Continuous Care – and advise you on the best way to maintain your great results. Your clinician will also share your results with your GP (with your permission).
To find out more about TMS treatment with Smart TMS, start by calling our friendly patient advisors on 0345 222 5678. You don't need a referral from your GP or psychiatrist.
If you decide to go ahead with treatment:
- we’ll need you to complete a questionnaire that gives us the information we need on your medical history and symptoms
- we’ll book an appointment with one of our clinicians, who’ll talk to you about your medical history and symptoms before confirming your suitability for TMS treatment.
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