Understanding hallucinations in probable Alzheimer's disease: Very low prevalence rates in a tertiary memory clinic

Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2018 Apr 21;10:358-362. doi: 10.1016/j.dadm.2018.03.005. eCollection 2018.


Introduction: Averaging at 13.4%, current literature reports widely varying prevalence rates of hallucinations in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD), and is still inconclusive on contributive factors to hallucinations in AD.

Methods: This study assessed prevalence, associated factors and clinical characteristics of hallucinations in 1227 patients with probable AD, derived from a tertiary memory clinic specialized in early diagnosis of dementia. Hallucinations were assessed with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory.

Results: Hallucination prevalence was very low, with only 4.5% (n = 55/1227) affected patients. Hallucinations were mostly visual (n = 40/55) or auditory (n = 12/55). Comorbid delusions were present in over one-third of cases (n = 23/55).Hallucinations were associated with increased dementia severity, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and a lifetime history of hallucination-evoking disease (such as depression and sensory impairment), but not with age or gender.

Discussion: In the largest sample thus far, we report a low prevalence of hallucinations in probable AD patients, comparable to rates in non-demented elderly. Our results suggest that hallucinations are uncommon in early stage AD. Clinicians that encounter hallucinations in patients with early AD should be sensitive to hallucination-evoking comorbidity.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Comorbidity; Dementia severity; Hallucinations; Low prevalence.