Health Care

The ‘Depression Chair'

by Patrick Flanagan

A new and potentially revolutionary device for treating depression - sans pharmaceuticals - arrives in Acadiana.

TMS of Acadiana, at first glance, appears less like a place where patients are treated for depression and more like a place where you'd get your teeth cleaned. That's because unlike mainstream treatments, TMS - short for "transcranial magnetic stimulation" - foregoes the use of pharmaceuticals in exchange for a specialized "depression chair," which looks strikingly similar to the kind used by dentists.

Attached at the chair's top is a bonnet-like device that sends magnetic pulsations through patients' heads. The outcome is like a neurological awakening.

Bruce Baudoin's TMS of Acadiana is the fifth company in the
state to offer NeuroStar TMS Systems' depression device.

The people responsible for bringing the first depression chair to Acadiana are Lafayette psychiatrist Dr. Susan Uhrich and Bruce Baudoin, a longtime medical professional who has owned Freedom Recovery Center for the last four years.

Baudoin and Uhrich now co-own TMS of Acadiana. They are the fifth company in Louisiana to offer the device from NeuroStar TMS Systems. NeuroStar's chair is the only one to get clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; therefore, it's the only device of its kind on the market.

"It trains the brain to increase its neurotransmitter production," says Baudoin after showing off the newly arrived chair during a recent tour of TMS of Acadiana's new office on Kaliste Saloom Road.

Baudoin tells ABiz he believes the treatment is going to revolutionize psychiatry. "I feel like I've got to scream about this from the rooftops," says Baudoin. "I've never been so excited about this in all my 20-plus years in the medical field."

While TMS therapy has existed since the mid-1980s, it took almost three decades before gaining federal approval. That clearance came in 2008, when the FDA approved TMS as a second-line treatment for patients whose depression is not first abated by the use of anti-depressants.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health's STAR*D study, released in 2010, only 27.5 percent of patients undergoing a "first-line" treatment using anti-depressants will achieve remission from their symptoms. The STAR*D report also shows that the chances for remission decrease even more with each new medication prescribed, going to a 21.2 percent chance for success with the second round of treatment. Once a patient has undergone three unsuccessful antidepressant treatments, the STAR*D report shows only 6.9 percent will experience positive results from a fourth antidepressant.

"When I first heard about this I thought it sounded too good to be true, but then I spent three hours a day every day from March to July researching this, and now I'm convinced. It will revolutionize psychiatry," says Baudoin. He points to the results reported by other clinics, like the Lanoka TMS Clinic in New Jersey. Lanoka TMS, says Baudoin, maintains an 80 percent rate of success among patients, and that's just one round of treatment.

Depending on the patient, the treatment generally takes about six weeks. There are side-effects, notes Baudoin, but nothing worse than scalp irritation and headaches - both results of having a small magnet repeatedly tapping against your head about 3,000 times per session. Though the treatment does involve some radiation, Baudoin says the total exposure from all six weeks of therapy is the same as one MRI.

TMS of Acadiana opened its doors two weeks after Baudoin's interview with ABiz in November, kicking off treatment for the clinic's first two patients.

"I never envisioned I would be responsible for bringing such an important new technology into town," says Baudoin, a lifelong resident of Breaux Bridge. "I never saw myself as that. No, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I can recognize intelligence, and I know this technology will change the way many people live. Medicine is usually a thankless business, but with this, well, I just can't wait until the day one of our patients walks back in and gives me a hug."