Home Care Following Leukotomy

Dr. Walter Jackson Freeman (R) operates on a lobotomy patient in 1942 with Dr. James Watts (L). (From the George Washington University Archives via the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii)

We have a dedicated page to historical treatments for insanity including psychosurgery.
Newspaper sources are copyrighted by their respective authors/owners.


Early Lobotomy Procedure from ‘Madness, Magic, and Medicine’ via the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

In 1949, Dr. António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with physiologist Walter Rudolf Hess, for the development of the prefrontal leukotomy. A polarizing procedure, many clinicians and researchers thought the leuokotomy would revolutionize medicine and psychiatry. It would also ignite the flames of research in Dr. Walter Freeman and Dr. James Watts with the development of the transorbital lobotomy. In that same year, the United States Veterans Administration began providing post-surgical care instructions to families of soldiers and veterans who had been given a prefrontal leukotomy.

The “Home Care Following Leukotomy” publication outlined tips for families receiving soldiers and veterans back into their care along with what to expect. Interestingly, the document notes that “He [the soldier or veteran] may act like a young child, be cross, irritable, fussy, but with your help these actions may disappear over time.” This document also highlighted the importance of patience and keeping the lobotomized patient constantly busy.


Lobotomy patient, post-operation and one year later.  (From the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia)

  Patient, ten days post-lobotomy. (From the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia)

The proceeding documents are from the National Archives and were uncovered as part of this project published by the Wall Street Journal in 2013. Visit the link to see the project in its entirety along with photographs and accounts from soldiers, veterans, and their families. It is a sobering story of how the lives of not only soldiers and veterans were changed but also their families.


Home Care Following Leukotomy

Department of Medicine and Surgery



Contributed by Shawn Logan | contact@kyhi.org


⁘ Works Cited ⁘

  1. Michael Phillips, “The Lobotomy Files: Forgotten Soldiers”, Wall Stress Journal, Last modified 2013, http://projects.wsj.com/lobotomyfiles.
  2. Freeman, Walter, 1895-1972., “Lobotomy patient, post-operation and one year later,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.cppdigitallibrary.org/items/show/4395.
  3. Freeman, Walter, 1895-1972., “Patient, 10 days post-lobotomy,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.cppdigitallibrary.org/items/show/4394.

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