Dr. Courtney on KY3

by Emily Wood, KY3 News

6:02 p.m. CST, February 4, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- One in ten people in the Ozarks suffer from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  For many, treating the illness requires medication.  But now a breakthrough treatment is providing a new option.

"It was one summer, the summer of '93, I just didn't want to get out of bed, do anything see anyone," said Theresa Lawson.

Lawson almost never misses a Pilates class.  The exercise is one of the things that helps her cope with symptoms of depression.  But Lawson said no matter how often she hit the gym, or how many medicines she took, those feelings always seemed to return.  Things became even worse when her husband of 40 years died in 2009.

"I would have liked to have just gotten better and have went off the medication, but you just do not do that," Lawson said.

Lawson said she had very little hope until she found a tiny office in Springfield that offered a little-known medical treatment for the disease.

Dr. H.J. Bains runs the only clinic in the area that offers a treatment known as transcranial magnetic stimulation.  During the procedure, a special machine uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, targeting the part that controls depression.

"It stimulates that area of the brain stimulates the growth of neurons in that area," Bains said.

The $13,000 treatment takes about 40 minutes, five days a week, for six weeks.  For people like Lawson, it can be life-changing.
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"Really the good part about it, I feel like is, I've been able to reduce my medication," Lawson said.

According to doctors, about one-third of patients treated with TMS are able to overcome depression.  Another one-third have moderate success.  But for a final one-third, the treatment has no effect.

Dr. Renae Courtney directs the masters and clinical programs at the Forest Institute in Springfield.  She teaches students how to diagnose and treat depression.

"I always encourage people to try the talk therapy option," Courtney said.

Courtney said many patients also find success in medication or in some with a combination of the two.  However, she has concerns about the new magnetic treatment.

"Just to look at the long-term, potential consequences of something that we may not know long term what the effects could be," Courtney said.

Bains said transcranial magnetic stimulation has been practiced in Europe for years but was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008.  Some insurance companies have started to pay for the treatment, and Bains believes it will become more and more common over the next few years.

"This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the field of psychiatry in the 21st century," Bains said.

"I am now about half the medication that I was taking before," Lawson said.

Doctors say the effects of the magnetic treatment can last for several months of longer, depending on the patient.  Bains said some patients revisit his office after that for additional treatments.

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