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Musical hallucinations are a rare phenomenon in clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to analyze the clinical spectrum of musical hallucinations.
We analysed demographic and clinical features of cases published in English, Italian, French or Spanish between 1991 and 2006 registered in MEDLINE, including three of our own cases. The cases were separated into four groups according to their main diagnoses (hearing impairment; psychiatric disorder; neurological disorder; toxic or metabolic disorder).
115 patients with musical hallucinations were included, of which 63.5% were female. The mean age was 57,25 years. Main diagnoses were: psychiatric disorder (46.1%; schizophrenia 30.4%), neurological disorder (21,7%), hearing impairment (17,4%), toxic or metabolic disorder (12.2%) and 2.6% other diagnoses.
61.7% patients presented simple diagnoses while 36.5% presented two or more diagnoses. 2.1% of patients didn't receive any diagnoses. 35.7% of patients and 60.9% of non psychiatric patients presented hearing impairment.
Both instrumental and vocal were the more frequent musical hallucinations and most of the patients had insight about the abnormality of their perceptions. Another kind of hallucinations was present in 40.9% of patients, auditory hallucinations being the most common. Also, 38,3% of the global sample had abnormalities in brain structural image (MRI, CT).
Musical hallucinations are a heterogeneous phenomenon in clinical practice. published cases describe them as more common in women and in psychiatric and neurological patients. Hearing impairment seem to be an important risk factor in the development of musical hallucinations.
Auditory and musical hallucinations have been reported in patients as an adverse effect of the use of opioids. Hearing loss, old age, and female gender are considered risk factors in the development of musical hallucinations. The aim of this report is to describe a case of a patient with auditory and musical hallucinations and to discuss the role of an opioid –tramadol- in the origin of those.
An 80 years old woman experiencing auditory hallucinations was referred to our hospital from an emergency room. The patient had bilateral mild hearing loss and was receiving tramadol 112.5 mg/daily during the last year for cervical pain. In the last ten months, she had been gradually noticing the voice of her dead husband coming from under her pillow, as well as intermittently hearing popular songs being played inside her head. The patient had good insight on both types of abnormal perceptions, which were reported as increasingly unpleasant through time.
Tramadol was discontinued and pimocide (range 1-4 mg/day) and loracepam (2.5 mg/day) were introduced, achieving the improvement of the hallucinations and the anxiety associated with them.
The outcome of this case supports the hypotheses that Opioids could induce musical hallucinations. Hearing impairment, old age, and gender could be underlying risk factors on the development of musical hallucinations.
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