YOUR HEALTH: Can neurostimulators really help relieve depression?

LOS ANGELES, California – Carolyn Radillo has been fighting treatment-resistant depression since she was a teenager.

"Can't focus, wasn't able to work," she explained.

"Didn't enjoy being around even my kids and other people. It was just really hard to cope with life."

She's had lots of therapy, many medications, and has been hospitalized four times, without much relief.

About 30% of adults with major depression don't respond to treatment.  - National Institutes of Health

So when her doctor told her about NeuroStar, she said "Yes".

NeuroStar delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to a part of the brain that's underactive, causing depression.

"TMS now offers another option, in terms of how to stimulate that activity, how to get those neurons to the brain firing and releasing their neurotransmitters," said Dr. Ernesty Rasisi, a psychiatrist with Los Angeles' St. Joseph Hospital.

Technicians have calibrated the coil that sends painless electrical pulses every few seconds for about 19 minutes.   Carolyn will come in for 30 treatments over six weeks.

Dr. Rasyidi says half the patients report significant relief and 30% are in remission from their symptoms without drugs.

"It's effective," said Dr. Rasyidi.

"Now, down the road, a person may experience another depressive episode and may need an additional treatment, but that's really no different than our existing treatment with medication therapy."

BACKGROUND:   Some people have clinical depression only once in their life, while others have it several times in a lifetime.   Major depression can sometimes occur from one generation to the next in families, but often it may affect people with no family history of the illness.   Clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships, symptoms that are present every day for at least two weeks.   Symptoms might include: fatigue or loss of energy almost every day, feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day, impaired concentration, indecisiveness, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day, restlessness or feeling slowed down, recurring thoughts of death or suicide, or significant weight loss or gain. (Source: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/major-depression#1)

Carolyn is almost finished with her treatments.

"Over the past couple weeks, I think that it's just gotten better, to where I'm seeing more frequent good days and less frequent bad days."

Dr. Rasyidi said side effects are minimal, including some scalp discomfort, twitching, and headache.

Neurostimulation is for adults who've tried a medication that didn't work or wasn't tolerated.

Most insurance companies will pay for NeuroStar treatments for depression.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.