Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), defined as the administration of a series of magnetic stimuli to the brain for the purpose of altering brain function, is an experimental medical intervention. rTMS currently is used to probe various aspects of brain function in the context of research studies approved by local ethics committees. rTMS also is under investigation as a potential treatment for various neurologic and psychiatric disorders. In light of the growing interest in using rTMS in a variety of experimental and therapeutic settings, the International Society for Transcranial Stimulation has recognized the need to formulate a consensus statement to assist the field in developing guidelines for its safe application. Whether the intended use is experimental or therapeutic, certain principles regarding the safety of rTMS apply. This statement is not aimed at guiding the therapeutic use of rTMS in any given condition or its application in any research paradigm, but rather is meant to apply broadly wherever rTMS is used.
rTMS has significant risks, most importantly that of producing epileptic seizures. The degree of risk varies with the dosing parameters and individual subject factors. Therefore, rTMS should be administered only under a licensed physician's orders (ie, by prescription or through some other mechanism that makes a physician directly responsible for its administration to the individual patient or research subject). Because rTMS has potential behavior-changing effects, undesirable side effects, and therapeutic impact, careful assessment of the risk and appropriateness of rTMS in each clinical or scientific context is critical and can only be made by, or in consultation with, a physician knowledgeable and experienced in the use of rTMS and fully trained in neurology, psychiatry, or another appropriate specialty.