Rapid Review: Wernicke Encephalopathy

August 10, 2017

Reviewed March 2024

Wernicke Encephalopathy

  • Associated with chronic alcohol use
  • Ataxia and confusion
  • PE will show nystagmus, lateral rectus palsy
  • Most commonly caused by thiamine (B1) deficiency
  • Treatment is thiamine repletion with proper nutrition and hydration
  • Korsakoff (irreversible memory loss)

Sample question:

A 53-year-old woman with chronic alcohol use disorder presents with confusion and blurred vision. Her vital signs are within normal limits. Physical examination reveals a wide-based gait, inability to abduct her right eye fully, nystagmus, and difficulty with memory. Her alcohol level is 0.0 mg/dL. Which of the following is most likely to diagnose this patient’s underlying disease process?

By Yehuda Wolf, MPA, PA-C

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