A line in this week’s Federal Budget allocating $288.5 million to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) therapy might pass most people by.
This is a brain stimulation technique that’s been used to treat conditions such as depression for almost 10 years in Australia, but which has not been funded through Medicare and so has had very limited availability.
Soon, it will be available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule for people with depression that hasn’t responded to other treatments, funding I’ve led applications for since 2012, and treatment I provide.
While we know rTMS can work, and is generally safe, we’re not entirely sure how it works. Here’s what the evidence says so far.
What is it?
In rTMS, a machine produces and applies a highly targeted, pulsed magnetic field to a specific area of the brain, towards the front, known as the prefrontal cortex. This is an area we believe isn’t working normally in people with depression.