Moniz was a braggart and widely campaigned for his leucotomy treatments, even though he did not have the success he claimed. He championed the procedure of cutting into the prefrontal lobes to ease the symptoms of mentally ill patients.
He did caution though, that this procedure could only be used on the most severely mentally disabled and where no other treatment ever worked.
His radical surgery was very controversial at the time; yet, it still spurred on more surgeries of this nature.
The term leucotomy was changed to lobotomy in 1936. Lobos refers to the lobes of the brain and tomy means to cut. In this case, it is the cutting of the neuro pathway connections between the frontal lobes, cortex, and thalamus which is believed to be the emotion center of the brain.
Two Americans, Walter Freeman a neurologist, and neurosurgeon James Watts began to vigorously promote the lobotomy and it became mainstream treatment for mental patients for the next two decades. Even though it was radical, dangerous, and not scientifically proven.
By 1946, Freeman decided that Muniz’s technique was too long and arduous. He feared that only mental patients who had access to hospitals would benefit from the surgery.
Thousands of mental patients incarcerated in mental hospitals needed the surgery. The psychiatrists at the asylums were not skilled in neurosurgery. The facilities lacked funding, there were no operating rooms, anesthesiologists, and operating tools in these poorly funded institutions.
Freeman decided to perfect a procedure that was less messy, less complicated, and much faster. That way more mental patients could benefit from lobotomies. He developed the trans orbital lobotomy infamously known as the Icepick Lobotomy. The procedure was so horrendous that even his partner James Watts would have nothing to do with it.
Trans Orbital Lobotomy: The Icepick Lobotomy
Freeman would line up his patients and systematically stick an icepick through roof of their eye sockets. The procedure was done through local anesthesia. Once the icepick entered the frontal lobes, the surgeon would swish it around, thus damaging anything in its pathway. The surgeon did not even know what he was cutting. The procedure was so gruesome that many a surgeon witnessing the procedure for training or observation purposes were sick to their stomachs or fainted.
Montrealers have a wonderful world renown neurological hospital: The Montreal Neurological Institute.