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Improvement in Severe Self-Mutilation Following Limbic Leucotomy: A Series of 5 Consecutive Cases

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62:925-933

Background: The efficacy of neurosurgical intervention for self-mutilation behavior associated with severe, intractable psychiatric disorders remains undetermined. We report the effects of limbic leucotomy in 5 consecutive patients with severe self-mutilation behaviors.

Method: After unsolicited referrals from their psychiatrists and careful consideration by the Massachusetts General Hospital Cingulotomy Assessment Committee (MGH-CAC), 5 patients were treated with limbic leucotomy. Their primary DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses were either obsessive-compulsive disorder or schizoaffective disorder. Comorbid severe, treatment-refractory self-mutilation was an additional target symptom. Outcome was measured by an independent observer using the Clinical Global Improvement, Current Global Psychiatric-Social Status Rating, and DSM-IV Global Assessment of Functioning scales in addition to telephone interviews with patients, families, their psychiatrists, and treatment teams. The mean postoperative follow-up period was 31.5 months.

Results: All measures indicated sustained improvement in 4 of 5 patients. In particular, there was a substantial decrease in self-mutilation behaviors. Postoperative complications were transient in nature, and postoperative compared with preoperative neuropsychological assessments revealed no clinically significant deficits.

Conclusion: In carefully selected patients as described in this report, limbic leucotomy may be an appropriate therapeutic consideration for self-mutilation associated with severe, intractable psychiatric disorders.