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Health Check: Non-invasive treatment for depression at Butler Hospital

Butler Hospital

Claudia Robertson and David Grenier will be man and wife in a few days.

Before they exchange vows, Robertson is coming to see her doctor, Linda Carpenter, for a treatment that's helped with her depression -- something called TMS.

"TMS is transcranial magnetic stimulation," Carpenter said.

TMS is non-invasive treatment for depression, and not a first-line treatment.

"They have to have failed at least four antidepressant trials. The average number is about 10. People have had decades of illness by the time they come here for TMS," Carpenter said.

That was the case with Claudia. Diagnosed 24 years ago, she failed to benefit from a number of anti-depressants she was prescribed. Last year, she found a combination that worked for a few years, but has since stopped working.

"I just got so depressed that I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't go to work. I couldn't do anything," Robertson said.

Then she heard about the TMS clinic at Butler Hospital. The way it works is this: magnetic energy pulses penetrate the skull where they reach nerve cells.

"And nerve cells act like electrical circuits and the pulsing of magnetic energy induces a current," Carpenter said. "So you're actually stimulating nerves to turn on."

For the first six weeks, patients have this treatment five days a week for about 40 minutes. Then the treatments are tapered. The effects are not immediate.

"Around week four or five, people start to notice things and they notice they're improving," Carpenter said.

Robertson had the treatment last year and called it a godsend. When she relapsed earlier this year, she returned for more treatments.

Now she says she has a reason to get up in the morning, and a reason to breathe every day.

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