New clinic to treat depression opens at Waco VA

Posted at 5:37 PM, Nov 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 19:17:56-04

The Waco VA's Center of Excellence has officially opened its new Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Clinic. TMS is a revolutionary technique that's being used to treat chronic depression.

A major cause of suicide is mental illness, most commonly depression. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly 20 veterans die by suicide each day.

"Depression is a debilitating illness," said Dr. Geoff May, a research psychiatrist at Waco VA Center of Excellence. "We throw everything we have at depression. That can be medication, that can be therapy, usually a combination is the best approach." 

John Eline served in the Army for 24 years. He's one of a handful of veterans currently using the TMS Clinic.

"It's important to get better," said Eline. "We're all different, if you get a hundred of us in a room, everybody's got a different reason, but for me, it was my family."

Unlike electroconvulsive therapy, which induces an electric shock, TMS uses a mild magnetic wave to stimulate specific regions in the front of the brain. 

"Different parts of the brain do different things," May said. "By aiming for the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex we maximize our chances of hitting that more advanced part of the brain that is involved in thinking and reasoning which is pivotal in treating depression."

Eline said he was interested in using the clinic since there's little to no side effects with TMS, unlike medication. TMS is also delivered without anesthesia, and there is no risk of memory loss.

"I mean you can feel your face twitch, but that's really it," Eline said. "There's no pain involved."

May said patients typically start with 30 sessions, three times a week. Eline is already noticing a difference after just six sessions.

"You can get better," Eline said, "This is a way to get better."

The Waco VA is one of the only VA hospitals in the state to offer TMS treatment. The clinic opened a few weeks ago for trials and now it's open to everyone in the Central Texas VA system. 

Veterans who are interested in receiving TMS treatment should ask for a referral from their VA providers.

For more information on the Waco VA Center of Excellence, click here:

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