Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been shown to improve scores on a depression test commonly used to assess a patient’s progress during treatment. PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire 9) is a self-assessment tool that helps mental health professionals gauge the severity of a patient’s depression. Administered over time, the test provides primary care and mental health professionals with valuable insight about the most effective treatment for an individual.
Depression test identifies symptoms and severity
PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire 9) is part of a broader testing tool, known as the “Patient Health Questionnaire,” which was developed in the 1990s to analyze symptoms of multiple mental health disorders. PHQ-9 is specific to depression and involves nine parts. Each part correlates with one of the nine criteria for major depressive disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Used as a screening tool, PHQ-9 relies on patient input to pinpoint symptoms and severity. Patients indicate which symptoms they are experiencing and how often. Then, healthcare practitioners score the tests. Answers are assigned values based on frequency, from 0 for “not at all” to 3 for “nearly every day. A higher final score indicates whether a patient may be suffering from depression and how severely it is impacting their lives.
TMS treatment lowers PHQ-9 scores
TMS treatment, cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, uses electromagnetic waves to stimulate parts of the brain that regulate mood. Its effectiveness in treating depression has been demonstrated in multiple studies, as patients have reported an easing of symptoms on the PHQ-9:
- Brown University (2012): Of patients participating in a TMS trial, 58% reported a significant decrease in depression symptoms, and 37% showed signs of remission.
- Rush University (2013): TMS patients reported a significant decrease in depressive symptoms.
- Broad 16-week trial (2009): Across 22 medical centers in Europe, Israel, Canada and the U.S., 33% of patients reported significant remission and 38% reported significant response to TMS.
Moreover, TMS treatment has proven particularly effective for patients with treatment-resistant depression. These patients make up about 45% of patients coping with major depressive disorder. And, they have failed to achieve the desired results after two antidepressant drug therapies. Such patients are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their treatment-responsive peers. Plus, they tend to experience a lower quality of life, lower productivity and greater relapse rates.
At Active Path in Portland, Oregon, our results are consistent with controlled trials. Nearly 80% of patients show a significant reduction in their PHQ-9 scores, while one-third of patients achieve remission scores.
TMS is a compelling treatment option
TMS is a noninvasive procedure that provides patients suffering from depression with a compelling treatment option when other therapies fall short. TMS can be effective for patients whose depression can’t be controlled with medication or who experience significant and disruptive side effects from antidepressants.
With TMS, patients typically commit to a treatment period of at least six weeks. During that time, patients undergo short treatment sessions, about 20 minutes each, five days each week. In the following three weeks, an additional six sessions are completed at wider intervals. All treatment is administered on an outpatient basis, and patients are free to resume their normal activities immediately, including driving. And, side effects are minimal.
At Active Path, the treatment team works closely with a patient’s referring physicians to ensure treatment is tailored to that individual’s needs. Additionally, we monitor and communicate progress, using the PHQ-9 as just one tool to assess results and keep patients on track.
If you or someone you love may be struggling and depression is a concern, consider taking a depression test to see if TMS treatment may be right for you.