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A lightning strike to the head causing a visual cortex defect with simple and complex visual hallucinations
  1. Ingo Kleiter1,
  2. Ralf Luerding1,
  3. Gerhard Diendorfer2,
  4. Helga Rek1,
  5. Ulrich Bogdahn1,
  6. Berthold Schalke1
  1. 1Department of Neurology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
  2. 2Austrian Lightning Detection and Information System (ALDIS), Vienna, Austria
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr I Kleiter
 Department of Neurology, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstr 84, 93042 Regensburg, Germany;ingo.kleiter{at}


The case of a 23-year-old mountaineer who was hit by a lightning strike to the occiput causing a large central visual field defect and bilateral tympanic membrane ruptures is described. Owing to extreme agitation, the patient was set to a drug-induced coma for 3 days. After extubation, she experienced simple and complex visual hallucinations for several days, but otherwise recovered largely. Neuropsychological tests revealed deficits in fast visual detection tasks and non-verbal learning, and indicated a right temporal lobe dysfunction, consistent with a right temporal focus on electroencephalography. Four months after the accident, she developed a psychological reaction consisting of nightmares with reappearance of the complex visual hallucinations and a depressive syndrome. Using the European Cooperation for Lightning Detection network, a meteorological system for lightning surveillance, the exact geographical location and nature of the lightning flash were retrospectively retraced.

  • CET, Central European Time
  • EUCLID, European Cooperation for Lightning Detection
  • ICU, intensive care unit

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  • Competing interests: None.

    Informed consent was obtained for publication of figure 1.