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Dr. Philip Pan (right) portrait
Dr. Pan demonstrates TMS therapy to an SIU medical student
Dr. Jeffrey Bennet portrait
Dr. Bennett (right) demonstrates TMS therapy
Dr. James Black, Ph.D., portrait

October 6, 2009

New Treatment for Adult Depression Available at SIU Med School

Psychiatrists in Springfield at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine are the first in downstate Illinois to use a new non-invasive treatment device for treating depression.  Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008 for the treatment of major depressive disorders, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy may help adults who have not had successful treatment results from anti-depressant medications.

“Some adults need other options for them to successfully combat their mental illness, so we are pleased that this new therapy is now available, especially since it has been demonstrated to be effective, safe and well tolerated by patients,” said Dr. Philip D. Pan, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of adult outpatient services.

Pan along with Dr. James E. Black and Dr. Jeffrey I. Bennett, both assistant professors of psychiatry, all have received specialized training in order to offer the treatment.
TMS therapy uses focused, pulsed magnetic fields to stimulate function in the targeted brain regions during the 45-minute outpatient procedure.  A patient is seated in a specialized chair which allows exact placement of the magnetic pulse.

A computer console controls the small electrical current to a treatment coil, which converts it into magnetic pulses, similar to those in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.  The coil is placed in the proper position on a patient’s head after the correct location in the brain is determined.  The magnetic pulses pass easily through hair, skin and skull.

“The magnetic pulses are the same type and strength as those produced in an MRI.  They are aimed at the left, prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area which does not function normally in patients with depression,” explains Bennett.

Once inside the brain, the magnetic pulses induce a small electrical current that is not felt by the patient.  The electric charge causes neurons in the brain to become active which evidently leads to the natural release of chemicals called neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.  These substances also are affected by medications used for treating depression. The pulses do not produce a seizure as part of the treatment or require general anesthesia.

Patients are awake and alert during the procedure, which is usually administered daily over a period of 4 to 6 weeks.  A patient can read, listen to music or relax during the procedure, as long as the head does not move so the pulses continue to reach the correct location in the brain.

The safety and tolerability of the procedure was tested in national clinical trials at 23 research centers.  Pan said that patients showed no side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, weight gain or sexual dysfunction as well as no adverse effect on a patient’s cognition.  The most common complaint was scalp discomfort or pain.
Bennett added that the trials showed statistically significant improvement in the basic depression symptoms such as concentration problems, sadness, loss of interest, insomnia, fatique and low self-worth.

As a brand new treatment on the market, TMS is being covered by some but not all insurance companies.  Billing assistance is available for patients who choose to file for reimbursement with their insurance carrier.
Patients can be referred for the treatment by their primary care physician or psychiatrist or may be self-referred.  All patients will need an evaluation to determine if the treatment is appropriate for them.

The TMS therapy is provided in an exam room while a nurse works with the SIU physician who oversees the process.  The service is provided at SIU’s Department of Psychiatry, 901 W. Jefferson, Springfield.  For more information, call 217-545-7620 weekdays.

SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health needs through education, service, research and community service.  The School has more than 220 full-time physicians as well as other medical professionals, offering both primary care and specialized treatment services.  The medical school works in partnership with hospitals and clinics throughout Illinois.  Clinical outreach efforts extend SIU’s involvement to about 50 Illinois communities.  For information, call SIU’s Call Center, 217-545-8000 or 1-800-342-5748.  Its Web site is