Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

UT Health Austin’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) service is used in the treatment of major depressive disorder in adult patients when antidepressants have failed to provide relief or patients cannot tolerate side effects. Our goal is to connect you with an academic mood disorder expert trained in treatment-resistant depression to help improve your overall quality of life.

Many answers to the questions you may have about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can be found below.

    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) - Service

    At UT Health Austin, we focus on you, the whole patient, making sure that you have the support you need throughout your care. We take a multidisciplinary approach to your care, meaning you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. This multidisciplinary, coordinated care model makes it easier for patients to get the care they need without having to make multiple trips to various locations. Our goal is to connect you with an academic mood disorder expert trained in treatment-resistant depression to help improve your overall quality of life.

    Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, values, and beliefs. Through the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation service, patients gain access to a mood disorder expert trained in treatment-resistant depression who can help improve those patients’ overall quality of life.

    We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide you with cutting-edge medical treatment options.

    The Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation care team includes psychiatrists, dietitians, social workers, and more who work together with your referring provider to ensure your care is delivered seamlessly.

    Yes, appointments are available by referral only. Speak with your primary care provider to request a referral.

    If you need assistance with getting a referral, please call the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation care team at 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) and we will be happy to help.

    Your initial appointment will consist of a 60 to 90-minute consultation with the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation care team who will review your medical history and determine your candidacy for undergoing TMS. We typically have patients begin with five treatments per week for 4-6 weeks, for an average of 20-30 treatments. After this initial course of treatment, individual treatment sessions will taper down to three treatments per week for one week, two treatments per week for one week, etc. The amount of time each treatment session takes depends on the variation of TMS used.

    To explore FAQs regarding your upcoming appointment, please click here.

    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) - General

    TMS is typically prescribed when antidepressants have failed to provide relief or patients cannot tolerate side effects. Unlike ECT, TMS is a noninvasive procedure with limited side effects. TMS involves delivering a series of focused magnetic pulses to an area of the brain (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) known to be underactive in major depression. Currently, there are less than 10 TMS machines in the local Austin area, and unlike other Austin providers, patients at UT Health Austin are seen by an academic mood disorder expert trained in treatment-resistant depression, rather than a general psychiatrist.

    During TMS treatment, an electromagnetic coil is placed on the scalp over the left prefrontal cortex. An electrical current is passed through the coil, generating a strong magnetic field. This stimulates brain cells (neurons) to fire normally again. This form of stimulation is done without causing a seizure or requiring anesthesia. While patients do require TMS five days per week initially, they can safely drive as well as return to normal activities immediately following each treatment.

    Intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) protocol is a newer and faster form of TMS that uses pulses applied in a pattern called bursts. Whereas conventional TMS procedures take 20-40 minutes, iTBS sessions only take 3-5 minutes per treatment. This protocol is FDA-approved for use in treating Major Depressive and has been proven to be similar to traditional TMS in terms of effectiveness, safety, and tolerability.

    TMS is a safe and well-tolerated treatment with few known adverse effects. Side effects are generally mild to moderate, improve shortly after an individual session, and decrease over time, allowing patients to return to their daily activities after treatment.

    Common side effects include:

    • Mild headache
    • Mild to moderate scalp discomfort
    • Tingling, spasms, or twitching of the facial muscles

    TMS treatment is evidenced-based and generally well tolerated by those with Major Depressive Disorder who haven’t responded to or tolerated medications. There are less than 10 TMS machines in the local Austin area. Unlike other Austin providers, patients at UT Health Austin will be seen by an academic mood disorder expert trained in treatment-resistant depression, rather than a general psychiatrist.

    TMS advantages include:

    • TMS is a noninvasive neuromodulation treatment, which puts you at lower risk for complications
    • TMS treatment sessions are quick, so you can go about your day
    • TMS does not require anesthesia, meaning no driving restrictions and you can go home the same day
    • TMS can be delivered effectively in an office space setting, allowing you to avoid hospital stays