Eastern State Pen, Philadelphia

The Icepick Lobotomy

During the middle decades of the 20th century transorbital lobotomy, or ‘ice pick’ lobotomy, a radically invasive form of brain surgery, was used extensively for patients with psychiatric illnesses. — Science Gallery

WARNING – Sensitive Subject Matter

No Less Brutal

If you are squeamish, you might not want to read this. However, if you are into horror and want to learn about how many psychiatric patients were abused back in the day, this might be right up your alley.

You have heard of people receiving lobotomies. It is a procedure that involves cutting into the skull and the frontal lobes. It used to be used to treat mentally ill patients, oftentimes leaving them unable to independently function, or even worse—severely brain damaged and in a vegetative state.

Well, an Icepick lobotomy is a type of lobotomy that does not involve cutting the skull open, however, is no less brutal. It was developed by Walter Freeman, and first performed in 1946.

The Transorbital Lobotomy

Formally called a Transorbital Lobotomy, an Icepick Lobotomy accesses the brain via the eye socket using a tool called an Orbitoclast. This tool looked like an ice pick and was inserted into the eye socket and tapped on with a hammer to puncture the thin layer of bone separating the eye from
the brain.

After the Orbitoclast was embedded in the brain, the surgeon would then make motions back and forth. This would break the fibers that held the brain together and slice into the white matter of the brain.

No Goofy Juice

I could not find any information on whether a person was sedated throughout this procedure. Although from the pictures I have found, I cannot imagine they would have been. Many eyes were open and people were restrained by others.

Though they often did not have memory of the procedure, I can only imagine the pain was breathtaking. Imagine yourself held down on a table against your will so a doctor can shove ice picks up into your brain. The thought sends chills down my spine!


The intentions behind the lobotomy were good. They wanted to help people whose behavior was out of control, or suicidal regain control. They wanted to cure people of depression, anxiety, and many other ailments. By disrupting the area of the brain where emotions resided, they felt they could do just that.

Unsafe All The Way

However, the results were often horrendous. Formerly highly intelligent, functioning individuals were reduced to nothing more than children. Some people lost control of bodily functions.

In fact, I found a statistic that said 3 in 100 people died from this procedure. It was most definitely not a safe procedure to undergo, no matter how good the intentions behind the operation was.

Social Media Era
Lunatic Asylum

Thankfully mental illnesses became treatable by procedures other than lobotomies and they eventually fell out of favor.

C. Brady

4 thoughts on “The Icepick Lobotomy

  1. This is so f##ked up!!! I watch One flew over the cockoo’s nest the movie when I was a kid and it scared the shit out of me what happens in a mental institution!!! Great article,Shared on my socials!💖💋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It was definitely interesting to learn about but I cant say I ever brought myself to watch the video included! Lol


  2. i skipped that video after reading what the procedure involved…i think i would have been traumatized. it is really hard to believe that only 3 in 100 died from the procedure. i think if this process was still active in the health care system today….i would steer clear of becoming a health care professional.

    Liked by 1 person

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