New treatment non-invasive

2020-03-25 06:01

The introduction of a new non-invasive treatment of psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety is a relief for several patients in Africa and South Africa.

The Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg introduced the ground-breaking treatment when the first group of patients underwent the procedure known in medical terms as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for the treatment of major depression, anxiety, neurological injury and tinnitus.

The procedure was performed for the first time on 7 February.

This was done at the new treatment centre, Connectomix, which has been established at the hospital by Dr Christos Profyris, a neurosurgeon.

The procedure uses a magnetic charge to stimulate targeted areas.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), about 20% of South Africans will experience a depressive disorder at least once in their lifetime.

As many as 12% of SA university students experience anything from moderate to severe symptoms of depression.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

As a specialised agency of the United Nations, the WHO is responsible for international public health.

The WHO defines depression as a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration.

It describes anxiety disorders as a group of mental disorders characterised by feelings of anxiety and fear, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-trauma­tic stress disorder (PTSD).

The WHO says more women are affected by depression than men.

To treat psychiatric conditions, Profyris pointed out that the areas of the brain that are targeted for TMS treatment are determined by means of advanced brain mapping.

“Brain mapping with TMS is becoming a meaningful treatment option, particularly for individuals whose depression has not responded to the traditional treatments available and are consequently experiencing treatment-resistant depression.

“Both the brain mapping and the TMS procedure are non-invasive, as neither of these involve surgery of any kind.

“Brain mapping with TMS is furthermore showing immense promise for the treatment of certain brain injuries and other psychia­tric conditions such as addiction, fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Profyris.

“Outstanding results have been achieved in relieving the symptoms of depression and anxiety in selected patients,” said Profyris, who has done extensive research and training in brain mapping and the TMS procedure in Australia.

The treatment uses technology that can locate areas of the brain that seek treatment making it particularly precise for each patient, Profyris explains.

“By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology with specially developed and highly advanced software, we are now able to observe brain activity in real time and develop a sophisticated computer-generated brain function map for each individual.”

“The brain function map enables us to understand the individual’s brain physiology better and we can therefore more precisely target the TMS treatment for each particular person.”

He said the final step is the TMS procedure, done with a special TMS coil that is simply positioned on the person’s head over a mapped area to either excite or inhibit selected areas of the brain underneath the coil.

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