[Wernicke's encephalopathy in chronic alcoholics].Laeknabladid. 2011 01; 97(1):21-9.L
Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency and most commonly found in individuals with chronic alcoholism and malnutrition. Clinically, its key features are mental status disorders and oculomotor abnormalities as well as stance and gait ataxia. The diagnosis of WE is frequently missed although delay of appropriate treatment can lead to death or Korsakoff's amnestic syndrome. It is therefore crucial in suspected cases of WE, not to await confirmation of diagnosis, but immediately administer high-dose intravenous thiamine and simultaneously treat magnesium deficiency. Alcoholics at risk of WE should on admission receive immediate prophylactic therapy with parenteral thiamine.