LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch psychiatrist Mark Sylvester is standing on the front line of depression treatment.
As a psychiatrist for Comprehensive MedPsych Systems Inc., a private Sarasota-based behavioral medicine group, Sylvester and his colleagues are using an innovative system that is slowly gaining nationwide recognition.
In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of NeuroStar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a non-drug treatment solution that uses magnetic field pulses, similar to those used during MRI examinations, to increase activity in parts of the brain that control emotional regulation. The system was manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Neuronetics.
In July, Comprehensive MedPsych opened a branch
in Lakewood Ranch. The office features a NeuroStar machine. Sylvester studied medicine at the University of Florida and used the NeuroStar during his residency training. The machine is also being used at some of the top psychiatric hospitals in the country, such as Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic.
The system is available by prescription only and can only be administered by a psychiatrist.
"The number one benefit is there is virtually no side effect," Sylvester said.
Sometimes there is discomfort from the tapping sensation the magnetic pulse delivers to the scalp. There is a 0.1 percent risk of seizure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 10 Americans reports symptoms of depression and in Florida, between 9.2 and 10.3 percent of adults meet the criteria for depression.
Sylvester said clinical trials have shown NeuroStar improved depression in 55 percent of patients who were not responding to medication. Within his client base, Sylvester had seen improvement up to 70 percent.
Christine Uttaro, 52, of Venice, has used antidepressant medications for 20 years and was not seeing improvements. Within eight weeks of therapy with Comprehensive MedPsych, she witnessed a life-changing turnaround.
"It's allowed me to celebrate life," she said. "It keeps me out of the hospital and keeps me functioning."
Comprehensive MedPsych will host an free patient education event Oct. 17 to inform the public on TMS therapy. The open house will be held 5-7 p.m. at 1250 S. TamiamiTrail, Suite 201, in Sarasota. Sylvester will host a similar event 5-7 p.m. Dec. 4 at his Lakewood Ranch office at 6320 Venture Ave., Suite 202. Those interested in attending either event should call 941-363-0878 to reserve a seat.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049.