|António Egas Moniz|
António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz|
29 November 1874
Avanca, Estarreja, Kingdom of Portugal
13 December 1955 (aged 81)|
|Alma mater||University of Coimbra|
|Known for||Prefrontal leucotomy, cerebral angiography|
|Stacey Moniz (1874-1884), Elvira de Macedo Dias (1884-1955)|
|Awards||Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1949|
|Institutions||University of Coimbra (1902); University of Lisbon (1921-1944)|
António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz (29 November 1874 - 13 December 1955), known as Egas Moniz (Portuguese: ['? mu'ni?]), was a Portuguese neurologist and the developer of cerebral angiography. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern psychosurgery, having developed the surgical procedure leucotomy--known better today as lobotomy--for which he became the first Portuguese national to receive a Nobel Prize in 1949 (shared with Walter Rudolf Hess).
He held academic positions, wrote many medical articles and also served in several legislative and diplomatic posts in the Portuguese government. In 1911 he became professor of neurology in Lisbon until his retirement in 1944.
Moniz was born in Avanca, Estarreja, Portugal, as António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz. He attended Escola do Padre José Ramos and Colégio de S. Fiel dos Jesuítas and studied medicine at the University of Coimbra, graduating in 1899. For the next 12 years, he served as a lecturer for basic medical courses at Coimbra. In 1911, he became a neurology professor at the University of Lisbon, where he worked until his retirement in 1944.
Politics was an early passion for Moniz. He supported a republican government, diverging from his family's support for the monarchy. As a student activist, he was jailed on two separate occasions for participating in demonstrations. While serving as Dean of the Medical School at the University of Lisbon, he was arrested a third time for preventing police from settling a student-run protest.
Moniz's formal political career began when he was elected to parliament in 1900. During World War I, he was appointed the Ambassador to Spain, and afterward, he served as Minister for External Affairs, representing Portugal at the 1918 Versailles Peace Conference.
In 1926, at age 51, Moniz retired from politics and returned to medicine full-time. He hypothesized that visualizing blood vessels in the brain with radiographic means would allow for more precise localization of brain tumors. During his experiments, Moniz injected radiopaque dyes into brain arteries and took X-rays to visualize abnormalities. In his initial tests, Moniz used strontium and lithium bromide in three patients with a suspected tumor, epilepsy, and Parkinsonism, but the experiment failed and one patient died. In the next set of trials, he achieved success using 25% sodium iodide solution on three patients, developing the first cerebral angiogram.
Moniz presented his findings at the Neurological Society in Paris and the French Academy of Medicine in 1927. He was the first person to successfully visualize the brain using radiopaque substances, as previous scientists had only visualized peripheral structures. He also contributed to the development of Thorotrast for use in the procedure and delivered many lectures and papers on the subject. His work led to the use of angiography to detect internal carotid occlusion, as well as two Nobel Prize nominations in this area.
Moniz thought that mental illness originated from abnormal neural connections in the frontal lobe. He described a "fixation of synapses," which in mental illness, was expressed as "predominant, obsessive ideas." Moniz also referenced the experiments of Yale physiologists John Fulton and C.F. Jacobsen, who found that removing the frontal lobes of a chimpanzee made it calmer and more cooperative. In addition, Moniz observed "changes in character and personality" among soldiers who had suffered from injuries to their frontal lobes.
Moniz hypothesized that surgically removing white matter fibers from the frontal lobe would improve a patient's mental illness. He enlisted his long-time staff member and neurosurgeon Almeida Lima to test the procedure on a group of 20 patients, mainly with schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. The surgeries took place under general anesthesia. The first psychosurgery was performed in 1935 on a 63-year-old woman with depression, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and insomnia. The patient experienced a rapid physical recovery, and two months later, a psychiatrist noted that she was calmer, less paranoid, and well oriented. In the first set of surgeries, Moniz reported a total of seven cures, seven improvements, and six unchanged cases.
Moniz never performed a surgery himself, partially because of his lack of neurosurgical training but also because he suffered from severe gout that left his hands crippled. Instructed by Moniz, Lima performed ten of the first twenty surgeries by injecting absolute alcohol to destroy the frontal lobe. Later on, Moniz and Lima developed a new technique using a leucotome, a needle-like instrument with a retractable wire loop. By rotating the wire loop, they were able to surgically separate white matter fibers.
Moniz judged the results acceptable in the first 40 or so patients he treated, claiming, "Prefrontal leukotomy is a simple operation, always safe, which may prove to be an effective surgical treatment in certain cases of mental disorder." He also claimed that any behavioral and personality deterioration that may occur was outweighed by reduction in the debilitating effects of the illness. He conceded that patients who had already deteriorated from the mental illness did not benefit much. The procedure enjoyed a brief vogue, and in 1949 he received the Nobel Prize "for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses."
Moniz came under fire from critics who accused him of understating complications, providing inadequate documentation, and not following up with patients. After Moniz's initial procedures, other physicians, such as Walter Freeman and James Winston Watts, adopted a modified technique in the United States and renamed it "lobotomy."
Moniz was a prolific writer, publishing work in Portuguese literature, sexology, and two autobiographies. Upon graduating from medical school, he gained notoriety for publishing a series of controversial books, called A Vida Sexual. His other writings included biographies of Portuguese physician Pedro Hispano Portucalense and Padre Faria, a monk and hypnotist. In the field of medicine, Moniz published 112 articles and 2 books on angiography alone. He also wrote on neurological war injuries, Parkinson's disease, and clinical neurology.
In 1939, Moniz was shot multiple times by a schizophrenic patient and subsequently confined to a wheelchair.[a] He continued in private practice until 1955. Moniz died from an internal hemorrhage on December 13, 1955.
Since falling almost completely from use in the 1960s, leucotomy has been deplored by many as brutally arrogant, and collateral derision has been directed at Moniz as its inventor. Others suggest judging the inventor separately from the invention, characterizing Moniz' work as a "great and desperate" attempt to find effective treatment for severe forms of mental illness for which there was at the time no effective treatment at all. Some claim it was aggressive promotion of lobotomy by other doctors (such as Walter Freeman) which led to its being performed in large numbers of cases now considered inappropriate.
In 1957 Moniz's study centre, now known as the Egas Moniz Museum, was transferred to Santa Maria Hospital, and integrated into the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon, where there is also a statue of him. His art collection is on display at his country house in Avanca. The anatomical feature Egas Moniz's Siphon, the passage of the internal carotid artery through the interior of the temporal bone, is named for him.