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J Clin Neurophysiol. 2011 Feb;28(1):67-74. doi: 10.1097/WNP.0b013e318205135f.

Safety of theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation: a systematic review of the literature.

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Department of Neurology, Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Theta burst stimulation (TBS) protocols have recently emerged as a method to transiently alter cortical excitability in the human brain through repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. TBS involves applying short trains of stimuli at high frequency repeated at intervals of 200 milliseconds. Because repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is known to carry a risk of seizures, safety guidelines have been established. TBS has the theoretical potential of conferring an even higher risk of seizure than other repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation protocols because it delivers high-frequency bursts. In light of the recent report of a seizure induced by TBS, the safety of this new protocol deserves consideration. We performed an English language literature search and reviewed all studies published from May 2004 to December 2009 in which TBS was applied. The adverse events were documented, and crude risk was calculated. The majority of adverse events attributed to TBS were mild and occurred in 5% of subjects. Based on this review, TBS seems to be a safe and efficacious technique. However, given its novelty, it should be applied with caution. Additionally, this review highlights the need for rigorous documentation of adverse events associated with TBS and intensity dosing studies to assess the seizure risk associated with various stimulation parameters (e.g., frequency, intensity, and location).

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