New depression treatment sends electrical pulses into brain

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- For about 30 percent of adults with major depression, simply taking medications isn't effective enough.

This group has what doctors call "treatment-resistant" depression and finding relief can often be frustrating.

But there are new alternatives that don't involve medication at all, neuro-stimulators that prod certain parts of the brain to work.

Carolyn Radillo has been fighting treatment-resistant depression since she was a teenager.

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

"I couldn't focus, wasn't able to work," Radillo said. "Didn't enjoy being around even my kids and other people. It was just really hard to cope with life."

Her doctor told her about a new treatment and she was open to trying it.

Neurostar delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to a part of the brain that's underactive and 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," St. Joseph Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Ernest Rasyidi said.

Technicians calibrate a coil that sends painless electrical pulses every few seconds for nearly 20 minutes.

An average of 30 treatments takes about six weeks.

Half of the Rasyidi's patients in Orange reported significant relief, while 30 percent are in remission from their symptoms without drugs.

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

Radillo is almost finished with her treatments and feels like she's made progress.

"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," she said.

Neurostar's side effects may include minimal scalp discomfort and headaches.

Insurance typically covers TMS, which often requires a series of treatment sessions to be effective.

Sessions are generally carried out several times a week for four to six weeks.
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