Victoria soon home to magnetic stimulation therapy
March 22, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 22, 2010 at 10:23 p.m.
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Dr. John Bouras flipped the light switch on in an empty room.
"This is the room," the psychiatrist said as he walked into the small suite.
The rectangular, white-walled room will be home to one of the newest local alternative methods to treat major depression. The method is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy.
Created by Neuronetics Inc. in October 2008, the device received Food and Drug Administration approval for patients who do not achieve improvement from antidepressant medication.
So far, the nearest cities that offer stimulation centers are San Antonio and Houston, Bouras said.
"I really think it's going to put Victoria on the map," said Bouras, who expects to begin treatments in early April.
Last fall, Bouras attended a medical seminar where he learned more about the new alternative, which was No. 5 on CNN's Top 10 Health Innovations of 2009.
With no stimulation centers south of Interstate 10, Bouras decided the days of working with talk therapy and prescription medications needed a boost.
"This is the future," he said. "There is still so much we don't know about how the brain works. But we learn more and more everyday."
Patients will lounge on a massage chair and the psychiatrist will place an electromagnetic coil on the prefrontal cerebral cortex, which is where depression begins.
The magnetic field passes through the skull, into the cortex and helps to stimulate brain cells to help control the mood, the doctor said.
Usually a patient will need a daily 37-minute treatment for four to six weeks to enjoy results, said Bouras, who cited several clinical trials.
The procedure can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 but financing options are available, Bouras said.
Bouras likes to think of the therapy as someone learning to play piano, he said. The more you practice and stimulate your brain, the more you adapt and get better at what you're doing.
This new treatment is similar, he said.
Bouras treats some patients who have had little luck with antidepressants and are interested in trying the therapy once it's available. Those interested in the treatment declined to comment.
Bouras said some patients will be skeptical, but this alternative can serve as an option to treat side effects of prescriptions, such as weight gain and thoughts of suicide.
Dr. Victor Stevens, another local psychiatrist, is familiar with the therapy. He is unsure about what this means for Victoria, he said.
"I have no idea whether that will be helpful, but you will have more options," Stevens said.
Patients should try all standard and more traditional therapies before considering stimulation therapy as a one-stop cure all, he said.
"A combination is even better," Stevens said, referring to antidepressants and the stimulation therapy. "I'm not sure if it's a big leap forward."
Bouras can't wait for the device's arrival, he said, and he predicts the therapy will boost the local economy.
People may suddenly view Victoria in the same light they do the medical hubs in other larger cities, he said.
"We've been waiting for it," he said.