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NeuroStar treats major depression, NIH says

IRVINE, Calif. – The National Institutes of Health reports that about 30 percent of adults with major depression don't respond to treatment. 

Those people have an alternative that doesn't involve medication and is non-invasive. 

Carolyn Radillo has been fighting treatment-resistant depression since she was a teenager. 

Radillo has had lots of therapy, many medications and has been hospitalized four times without much relief. 

"Can't focus, wasn't able to work. Didn't enjoy being around even my kids and other people. It was just really hard to cope with life," Radillo said. 

So when Radillo's doctor told her about NeuroStar, she said yes. 

NeuroStar delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to a part of the brain that's underactive, which causes depression. 

"TMS now offers another option, in terms of how to stimulate that activity, how to get those neurons to the brain firing and releasing their neurotransmitters." said Dr. Ernest Rasyidi, a psychiatrist at St Joseph Hospital.

Technicians have calibrated the coil that sends painless electrical pulses every few seconds for about 19 minutes. 

Radillo will come in for 30 treatments over six weeks. Rasyidi said half the patients report significant relief, and 30 percent are in remission from their symptoms without drugs.

"It's effective. Now, down the road, a person may experience another depressive episode and may need an additional treatment, but that's really no different than our existing treatment with medication therapy." Rasyidi said. 

Radillo is almost finished with her treatments. 

"Over the past couple weeks, I think that it's just gotten better, to where I'm seeing more frequent good days and less frequent bad days," she said.

Side effects are minimal, including some scalp discomfort, twitching, and headache. 

Neurostimulation is for adults who've tried a medication that didn't work or wasn't tolerated. 

Most insurance companies will pay for NeuroStar treatments for depression.