Dr Sacrifice Chirisa Mental Health Matters
Sessions of magnetic brain stimulation therapy lasting just over 20 to 30 minutes per day significantly reduce depression symptoms in patients. The treatment, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), uses a magnetic field to non-invasively stimulate a brain area called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that plays a central role in mood regulation, decision making and working memory.
The standard version of this therapy, which uses high frequency brain stimulation during roughly 30-minute sessions, has been shown in previous studies to cause remission of depression symptoms and in up to 30 percent of patients with treatment-resistant depression. The treatments will last at least six weeks of daily doses of the stimulation.
The use of this new technology has had impressive treatment results including: nearly 50 percent of participants receiving the shorter treatment (iTBS) experienced a significant reduction in symptoms, and just over 30 percent reported full remission of symptoms. This treatment now has the approval for depression by the US Food and Drug Administration since 2008.
The main impact of this is that now people are able to choose treatment options that best suit their lifestyle. There are a number of people who do not like using medication and this option could be made available to them and can be used with medication making the use of medication shorter.
Multiple research papers have been published supporting rTMS as an effective therapy for patients with depression and more so those with medication resistant depression. The number of resistant depressive patients is estimated to be 40 percent of all adult depression patients.
Brain stimulation is well tolerated by most patients, with the major side effect being occasional headaches that need simple pain killers in some sensitive individuals.
As use of the therapy gains momentum, Zimbabwe is not being left behind and this new treatment will be available before Christmas this year at one of the leading private psychiatry institutions to be opened in Borrowdale.
Psychiatry is really now a science with evidence-based treatment models and embracing the advancement of technology.
Dr Sacrifice Chirisa is a passionate mental health specialist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of the country’s major referral centres