Studies suggest that up to 80% of patients with Wernicke encephalopathy may not be diagnosed, which makes estimates of mortality rates unreliable. Wernicke encephalopathy is a significantly disabling and potentially lethal condition that can be prevented or reversed if treated early. Established Wernicke encephalopathy can have major long-term consequences among patients requiring permanent institutional care.
- Foot droop
- Decreased proprioception
- Abdominal pain
- Prolonged alcohol abuse
Wernicke encephalopathy is caused by thiamine deficiency in the central nervous system, and is defined by the triad of confusional symptoms, ocular alterations and ataxia. Some other factors may also predispose alcoholic patients to this deficiency. We report two patients with hyperglicaemia and ketoacidosis due to diabetes mellitus decompensation and chronic alcoholism who developed Wernicke encephalopathy before their hospital admission. The outcome was successful after intravenous thiamine administration and insulinotherapy. The presence of Wernicke encephalopathy in alcoholics with diabetic ketoacidosis, suggests that metabolic decompensation is essential in the onset of the disease.
Pubmed [Link 2]
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Wernicke encephalopathy is a severe neurologic disorder that results from a dietary vitamin B1 deficiency. It is characterized by changes in consciousness, ocular abnormalities, and ataxia. This study was undertaken to analyze and compare findings on MR imaging and neurologic symptoms at clinical presentations of patients with Wernicke encephalopathy with and without a history of alcohol abuse. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A multicenter study group retrospectively reviewed MR brain imaging findings, clinical histories, and presentations of 26 patients (14 female, 12 male) diagnosed between 1999 and 2006 with Wernicke encephalopathy. The age range was 6-81 years (mean age, 46 .6+/-19 years). RESULTS: Fifty percent of the patients had a history of alcohol abuse, and 50% had no history of alcohol abuse. Eighty percent showed changes in consciousness, 77% had ocular symptoms, and 54% had ataxia. Only 38% of the patients showed the classic triad of the disease at clinical presentation. At MR examination, 85% of the patients showed symmetric lesions in the medial thalami and the periventricular region of the third ventricle, 65% in the periaqueductal area, 58% in the mamillary bodies, 38% in the tectal plate, and 8% in the dorsal medulla. Contrast enhancement of the mamillary bodies was statistically positively correlated with the alcohol abuse group. CONCLUSIONS: Our study confirms the usefulness of MR in reaching a prompt diagnosis of Wernicke encephalopathy to avoid irreversible damage to brain tissue. Contrast enhancement in the mamillary bodies is a typical finding of the disease in the alcoholic population.
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