The British Journal of Ophthalmology
2021 May 12; doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2021-319091. 

Arnaud Martel  Stephanie Baillif  Pierre Thomas  Fabien Almairac  Olivier Galatoire  Mehrad Hamedani  Denys Fontaine  Michel Lanteri-Minet 


Aim: Phantom eye syndrome is a poorly understood and underestimated complication of eye removal (ER). Seeing with the amputated eye, referred to as phantom vision (PV), is undoubtedly the most intriguing and confusing complication experienced by anophthalmic patients. The aim of the study was to assess PV prevalence, clinical features and risk factors after ER.

Methods: A multicentric questionnaire-based study was conducted between April 2016 and July 2017. Patients >18 years who underwent ER >3 months ago had a socket examination before inclusion. Data recorded included patients’ demographics, and preoperative, surgical and postoperative features.

Results: One hundred patients (53 men) with a mean age of 65.1 years (29-92; SD=13.0) were included. ER indications were: uveal melanoma (n=24, 24%), trauma (n=20, 20%), retinal detachment (n=20, 20%), glaucoma (n=14, 14%) and endophthalmitis (n=12, 12%). Thirty (30%) patients experienced PV. Elementary and complex visual hallucinations were experienced by 80% and 20% of patients, respectively. PV usually appeared within the first postoperative month and tended to decrease over time. Risk factors for PV were the preoperative use of proton beam therapy (p=0.006), uveal melanoma (p=0.014), enucleation (p=0.015), anxiety with a Hospital and Anxiety Depression (HAD) score ≥8 (p=0.042), depression with a HAD score ≥8 (p=0.030), phantom eye pain (p=0.044) and phantom eye sensations (p=0.002).

Conclusion: PV was reported by one-third of our patients. Despite being widely misunderstood, ophthalmologists and neurologists should be aware of this complication to adequately reassure patients.

Keywords: orbit; treatment surgery; visual perception.

Phantom vision after eye removal: prevalence, features and related risk factors