Are hallucinations after surgery normal?

Betsyanne asked...

My husband recently underwent heart surgery, from which he has made a full recovery. He insists 'They took him to Russia to see the Olympic games whilst he was in hospital,' to which we have agreed must have been very entertaining!

He now wants to know what else we did whilst we were there. I am at a complete loss how to react to this. Any suggestions please to his hallucinations after surgery?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

It sounds like your husband had some delirium from the anesthesia.  When people undergo a complicated surgery, sometimes they get confused, agitated, or delirious afterwards.  While, it is interesting that he thinks he went to Russia, it seems like he absolutely believes that this really happened.  This is a delusional thought.  A hallucination would be to hear and see things that are not there. 

What I would try to do first is reassure him that while he thinks he went to Russia, he really was in the hospital recovering from a procedure.  I would not laugh or joke about it, as the experience was very real to him.  Tell him he was reacting to the medications they gave him, but not to worry, as he recovered well.  Hopefully, this will make him understand.

One last thought:  If he continues to have any new delusions, I would definitely let his health care provider know, as this can be a sign of something more serious.