A detailed phenomenological comparison of complex visual hallucinations in dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer's disease

Int Psychogeriatr. 1997 Dec;9(4):381-8. doi: 10.1017/s1041610297004523.


Visual hallucinations (VH) are a core feature of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), but little is known about their phenomenology. A total of 73 dementia patients (42 DLB, 30 Alzheimer's disease [AD], 1 undiagnosed) in contact with clinical services were assessed with a detailed standardized inventory. DLB was diagnosed according to the criteria of McKeith and colleagues, AD was diagnosed using the NINCDS-ADRDA criteria. Autopsy confirmation has been obtained when possible. VH were defined using the definition of Burns and colleagues. Detailed descriptions of hallucinatory experiences were recorded. Annual follow-up interviews were undertaken. The clinical diagnosis has been confirmed in 18 of the 19 cases that have come to autopsy. A total of 93% of DLB patients and 27% of AD patients experienced VH. DLB patients were significantly more likely to experience multiple VH that persisted over follow-up. They were significantly more likely to hear their VH speak but there were no significant differences in the other phenomenological characteristics including whether the hallucinations moved, the time of day that they were experienced, their size, the degree of insight, and whether they were complete. VH may be more likely to be multiple, to speak, and to be persistent in DLB patients. These characteristics could potentially aid accurate diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Lewy Bodies*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*