Case study

A relatively new form of depression treatment will soon be made available to a large number of people in outer Melbourne, thanks to collaboration between researchers at The Alfred hospital and Monash Medical Centre.

The Alfred became the first public hospital in Australia to offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – a method of non-invasively stimulating and changing brain activity – as a clinical service in 2011.

Professor Paul Fitzgerald pioneered much of the extensive research into TMS at The Alfred, and its eventual use on patients. 

Now, through Monash Partners, he is working with Associate Professor David Barton and other Monash Medical Centre staff to introduce the program there.

Funding is currently being established for equipment, protocols and training, with the depression treatment likely to start at Monash in the next few months.

During Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment a coil is placed on a patient’s scalp, and an electrical current passes through this.

“This generates a magnetic field which passes into the brain and can stimulate and potentially alter brain activity,” says Professor Fitzgerald.

While TMS is still a fairly recent addition to depression treatments, he says it is increasingly being used in clinical programs internationally, with about 500 clinical services offering it in North America.

“There are other effective treatments for depression but about a third of patients with this condition don’t get better with standard other treatment approaches and TMS is predominately focused on this population,” says Professor Fitzgerald.

He says introducing TMS to Monash Medical Centre will help many patients with depression in Melbourne’s south-east.

“The expansion of the program will make TMS therapy much more widely available in a large and underserviced area of outer-metropolitan Melbourne.”