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TMS: What is the SAINT Protocol?

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SAINT Protocol Illustration
Published: October 26, 2022
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As of September 6th, 2022, the FDA has approved the use of the TMS SAINT Protocol, adding another vital tool in the arsenal against treatment-resistant depression. TMS SAINT, which stands for “Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy”, is a new and improved version of the older repetitive TMS (rTMS) that has shown much promise in early clinical trials.

It is recommended under specific circumstances and has both pros and cons associated with it. This article will go over what the SAINT protocol is, how it differs from standard TMS treatment, when it’s recommended, and its benefits.

 

How does it work?

The SAINT protocol is a type of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) treatment, which means it uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. It specifically uses a theta-burst stimulation pattern, which is a type of TMS that has been found to be more effective than other types of TMS.

When you go in for treatment, you can expect to receive an fcMRI scan to map the areas of your brain that will be targeted by the magnetic pulses. Everyone’s brains are different, so this scan ensures that the treatment is tailored specifically for you.

 

How is it different from regular TMS?

As previously mentioned, the SAINT protocol uses a theta-burst stimulation pattern, which is a type of TMS that has been found to be more effective than other types of TMS. Second, the SAINT protocol treatment itself consists of 10 sessions per day, each lasting about 10 minutes, for a total of 5 consecutive days. This is compared to regular TMS treatment, which typically consists of 1-3 sessions per day, each lasting about 30-60 minutes, for a total of 5-6 weeks.

 

When is it recommended?

The SAINT protocol is typically recommended for patients who have not responded to other forms of treatment, such as medication or traditional TMS. It may also be recommended for patients who are unable to take medication or who cannot tolerate the side effects of medication.

 

What are the pros and cons?

Just like with all treatments for depression, the SAINT protocol comes with pros and cons.

Pros:

Much quicker treatment than other forms of TMS

While standard TMS treatments usually take 1-3 sessions per day, each lasting about 30-60 minutes, for a total of 5-6 weeks, the SAINT protocol consists of 10 sessions per day, each lasting about 10 minutes, for a total of 5 consecutive days.

 

May be more effective than other forms of TMS

With its theta-burst stimulation pattern and quicker treatment period, the SAINT protocol has been shown to be more effective than regular TMS in early clinical trials. Of course, every patient is different, so make sure to talk with your psychologist to properly evaluate your options.

 

Cons:

Possible side effects

Like all treatments, the SAINT protocol comes with potential side effects. These include headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and fatigue. However, these side effects are typically mild and go away on their own after a few days.

 

Cost

Because the SAINT protocol has only recently received FDA approval, most insurance companies have not made a decision yet about whether or not they will cover this treatment. This can make obtaining insurance coverage challenging. Out-of-pocket costs for the treatment can be quite expensive for some patients.

 

Interested in learning more about SAINT and TMS?

If you are dealing with Treatment-Resistant Depression and are looking for the best possible care, reach out to BestMind Behavioral Health. Our team of licensed psychiatrists, certified physician assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners can help you get on the path to recovery. We offer a variety of treatments, including accelerated TMS protocol, standard TMS, and more. We understand that every person’s situation is unique, and we will work with you to create a treatment plan that fits your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services!