What is the role of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in the treatment of major depressive disorder (clinical depression)?

Updated: Aug 06, 2020
  • Author: Jerry L Halverson, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of major depressive disorder when one class of antidepressant has failed. A double-blind, multicenter, controlled TMS trial found that 30.4% of patients in the trial’s active treatment group achieved remission from major depression after 5 weeks of TMS treatment. [159]

The study included 233 patients, all of whom suffered from major depression and had previously failed to respond to therapeutic treatments or could not tolerate antidepressant medication because of side effects. The TMS device used in the trial received FDA approval in 2013 for the treatment of depression. [159]  

In 2017, the FDA approved a next-generation TMS device for patients with treatment-resistant MDD. [160] According to the manufacturer, this advanced system is the only FDA-cleared TMS treatment that can be delivered in less than 19 minutes, although treatment time may vary, depending on the physician's recommendation.

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