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State of the art machine helps Utahns battle depression

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Utah has the highest depression rate in the country, but a relatively unknown procedure at the University of Utah may change that.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Utah has the highest depression rate in the country, but a relatively unknown procedure at the University of Utah may change that.

Doctors call it Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS and for 25-year-old Katie Haslam Hendrix, it worked.  "It's been very successful."

Hendrix battled depression for almost 15 years.  "I was not really functioning in life," she said.

That is why she tried everything, including antidepressants, for help. "Sometimes they would make me functional and other times I would be, sometimes it would turn me into a robot." Hendrix recalled.

Then she decided to try TMS. Doctors said it is a simple procedure. First, the machine is fitted to the patient; second, a doctor maps the area of the brain that needs treatment; then, magnetic pulses are fired into the brain for four second intervals.

"We're basically stimulating that same part of your brain without having to put the medicine in the blood stream." said Doctor Howard Weeks. As the director of the University of Utah's TMS program he says it has the benefit of antidepressants without all the side effects.

"The most common side effect is a little bit of a headache or a little skull soreness," he said.

For some patients the treatment also comes with a big bill.  Right now most insurance companies do not cover TMS, which includes up to 30 treatments at a cost of ten to twelve thousand dollars.

But Hendrix says after spending years in the depths of despair, her health is worth the cost.

"It's so much better than just being holed up in my bed and not being able to do anything she said."

Utah doctors want to know how TMS impacts postpartum depression.  For more information on how to participate in an upcoming study call (801) 587-3297. For information on the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute click here.


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