Complex visual hallucinations (Charles Bonnet syndrome) in visual field defects following cerebral surgery. Report of four cases

J Neurosurg. 2004 Nov;101(5):846-53. doi: 10.3171/jns.2004.101.5.0846.


The development of visual hallucinations after loss of vision is known as the Charles Bonnet syndrome. This phenomenon was first described in 1760 by Charles Bonnet and others during their observations of elderly patients with degeneration of the retina or cornea. To date a clear association between visual hallucinations and neurosurgical procedures has not been reported. Because of their clear demarcation, however, surgical lesions in the cerebrum offer a unique opportunity to determine the pathoanatomical aspects of visual hallucinations. During a 3-year period, 41 consecutive patients who acquired visual field defects after neurosurgery were examined for the occurrence of visual hallucination. Postoperatively, four of these patients experienced visual hallucinations. In two of them an upper quadrantanopia developed after the patients had undergone selective amygdalohippocampectomy. In the other two patients a complete hemianopia developed, in one case after resection of a parietal astrocytoma and in the other after resection of an occipital glioblastoma multiforme. The visual hallucinations were transient and gradually disappeared between 4 days and 6 months postoperatively. The patients were aware of the fact that their hallucinations were fictitious and displayed no psychosis. Electroencephalographic recordings were obtained in only two patients and epileptic discharges were found. Deafferentiation of cortical association areas may lead to the spontaneous generation of complex visual phenomena. In the present series this phenomenon occurred in approximately 10% of patients with postoperative visual field defects. In all four cases the central optic radiation was damaged between the lateral geniculate nucleus and the primary visual cortex. The complex nature of the visual hallucination indicates that they were generated in visual association areas.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / surgery
  • Brain Diseases / surgery
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / etiology*
  • Hippocampus / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Syndrome
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*
  • Visual Fields*
  • Visual Pathways / surgery