One of my favorite more serious films is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What does Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a bad guy hoping for easy served time in a mental institution have to do with medical imaging? Well it all starts with the lobotomy. Not to spoil the story, suffice it to say that the movie broaches the topic of lobotomies and how ridiculous they were. Lobotomy was a form of neurosurgery that involved damaging the prefrontal cortex in order to “calm” certain mentally ill patients. Needless to say the procedure was controversial from the beginning (1935 to the early 1970’s) but the author of the discovery, Egas Moniz, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949. Maybe not the most sound of decisions by the committee. However, for the time, it was considered progress in a very challenging area of medicine – mental illness.
OK, medical imaging? Well as it turns out Moniz (do not confuse with St-Moriz, ahhh skiing…) is also known for developing cerebral angiography – a technique allowing the visualization of blood vessels in and around the brain.
Moniz was interested in finding a non-toxic substance that would be eliminated from the body, but would not be diluted by the flow of blood before the x-ray could be taken. Another requirement is that the substance could not cause an emboli or clot as this would be a bad thing. Moniz played with salts of iodine and bromine and settled on iodine because of its greater radiographic density. And voila, birth of iodinated radiocontrast agents still in use today. Cool.
Supposedly it took him 9 patients to perfect his angiogram technique. Don’t ask about the first 8…
Moral of the story is: lobotomy bad and cerebral angiography good.
Now for the fun part (see the rules here), using Cuckoo in a sentence by the end of the day:
Less serious: Someone won a Nobel Prize for developing the lobotomy? Are you cuckoo?