To describe the prevalence of phantom eye syndrome in eye-amputated patients, to give a description of visual hallucinations, and to identify triggers, stoppers, and emotions related to visual hallucinations.
The hospital database was screened, using surgery codes for patients who had received ocular evisceration, enucleation, or secondary implantation of an orbital implant in the period 1993–2003. A total of 267 patients was found and invited to participate, 173 accepted. Patients who accepted participation had their records reviewed, and a structured interview about visual hallucinations and pain was performed by one trained questioner (M.L.R.R.).
The prevalence of phantom eye syndrome was 51%. Elementary visual hallucinations were present in 36%, complex visual hallucinations in only 1%, and other visual hallucinations in 14%. The elementary visual hallucinations were most often white or colored light, as a continuous sharp light or as moving dots. The most frequent triggers were darkness, closing of the eyes, fatigue, and psychological stress; 54% of patients had the experience more than once a week. Ten patients were so visually disturbed that it interfered with their daily life.
Phantom eye syndrome is common, and the authors recommend that surgeons inform their patients about the phenomenon.