Lifewatch: New treatment for depression

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Medication and psychotherapy have helped many of the 27 million Americans who are diagnosed with depression.  But for others, those tried-and-tested methods have not helped.

The government has approved the first non-invasive brain stimulator that helps treat depression.  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) beams magnetic pulses through the skull, triggering small electrical charges to spark brain cells back to life.

Wilmington's Dr. Paul Buongiorno said TMS is for patients who have had no relief from medication when trying to battle depression.

"The ideal candidate is someone who can't tolerate the medication, and doesn't like the side effects," said Buongiorno.

TMS uses electromagnets to send pulses of energy directly into the left side of the brain, which is thought to control mood.  There is often less activity in this part of the brain in patients who are depressed.

TMS is most successful when the patient undergoes treatment on a regular basis.

"Patients are actually treated every single day, Monday through Friday, for a minimum of four weeks and treatments last approximately an hour," said Buongiorno.

Often there is no noticeable mood change during the first week, but dramatic response can bee seen in the procedure.

"Everybody who has had the treatment has been extremely happy because it doesn't interfere with their activities of daily living, they have virtually no side effects, they're able to finish a treatment, go to work, and do whatever they need to do for the rest of the day," said Buongiorno.

Dr. Buongiorno is the only doctor in the state of North Carolina who offers this treatment.  TMS is not covered by insurance at this time.

For more information contact:
Dr. Paul Buongiorno
1402 S. 17th Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 762-8400

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.