What is lobotomy?

Mark Mikhalev
Mark Mikhalev
March 18, 2013

Many times you have probably heard the expression “only a lobotomy will help here,” or something like that. Let's see what a lobotomy is.

What is a lobotomy

Lobotomy is a type of neurosurgical operation, also known in psychosurgery as leukotomy. The essence of the operation is to separate the frontal lobe of the brain from the rest of it, by resecting the white matter of neuronal connections. Thus, the connection of the frontal lobes with other parts of the brain is terminated, but the frontal lobes themselves are not affected and are not damaged. As a result, the influence of the frontal lobes on the central nervous system is stopped, as a result, the patient loses the ability to make decisions, his will weakens and, often, a person who has undergone prefrontal lobotomy turns into a vegetable.

Initially, lobotomy was performed without trepanning of the skull by inserting a surgical instrument into the brain through the eye opening. The first such tool was an ice pickuntil Walter Freeman (a famous American psychiatrist who played a significant role in popularizing this method) did not develop a leukot and orbitoclast — special knives for performing a lobotomy. In order to cut the white connecting substance, the surgeon put a knife to the eye socket of the patient and struck the knife with a surgical hammer. The knife, separating a thin layer of bone, entered the skull under the frontal lobes, after which the surgeon made several movements with the knife in different directions, destroying the substance of neuronal connections.

The use of this method was fraught with frequent damage to the frontal lobes, so in the second half of the twentieth century, the practice of osteoplastic craniotomy began. The surgeon opened the skull, which opened the necessary overview of the surgical field and allowed more accurate resection of the tissue without damaging the frontal lobes. After surgery, the skull was sutured, and the patient was given a life-long diagnosis of “Frontal lobe syndrome”.

Lobotomy is a terrible and inhumane intervention in the human brain. Why do a lobotomy then? Many disputes about the ethical and practical side of lobotomy arose from the very beginning of the practice of lobotomy, and on December 9, 1950, Order No. 1003 was issued,which prohibited the use of lobotomy in medicine. Lobotomy was used only in extreme and hopeless cases of schizophrenia, when the long and systematic use of other traditional methods of treatment of schizophrenics did not produce results. And when some lobotomy-exposed seriously ill patients, hopeless patients found peace and mental stability, it became clear why lobotomy was needed.

Lobotomy has been relatively successful in treating paranoid schizophrenia. Patients returned to normal life and work (sometimes), getting rid of psycho-emotional disorders, and healthy members of society felt safe.

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