Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and At-Risk Patients

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is a condition that occurs due to a lack of Vitamin B1. Wernicke’s is a serious medical condition that can result in temporary or permanent brain damage. This article can find all the information about Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and patients at risk of this disease. 

What is Wernicke’s Encephalopathy?

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is a neurological disease that is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin B1. It is a brain disorder associated with the lower part of the brain. Though it is often seen in cases of alcoholism, Wernike’s can also develop as a result of medical malpractice. The lack of thiamine can cause temporary or permanent damage to the lower parts of the brain. If left untreated, Wernicke’s Encephalopathy can transform into Korsakoff Syndrome.


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How Does Wernicke’s Happen to Medical Patients?

The deficiency of thiamine results in Wernicke’s Encephalopathy. There are three different ways that Wernicke’s can be seen in patients. In the case that you were diagnosed with Wernicke’s disease while in medical care, it may be due to medical malpractice


Alcohol use is one of the leading causes of Wernicke’s in patients. High levels of alcohol present in the liver reduce the concentration of thiamine. This reduces the level of absorption of thiamine by the body leading to deficiency. The lack of vitamin B1 causes the patient to show symptoms of Wernicke’s. 

Severe Vomiting – Loss of Thiamine

Anyone with a case of episodes of vomiting or nausea is prone to thiamine deficiency. This includes someone who is bulimic, a woman going through pregnancy, or someone ill in medical care. In the case of severe vomiting, it becomes the care staff’s job to maintain the patient’s thiamine levels. 


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Gastric Surgery – Not Eating Enough Thiamine

Going through gastric or bariatric surgery has the risk of the patient being diagnosed with Wernicke’s. The surgery involves splitting the stomach into two parts, the larger of which is disconnected to reduce food intake. The part of the intestine bypassed is the part of the body that absorbs the most thiamine—not being able to do so after surgery results in the risk of thiamine deficiency in the body. 

Signs and Symptoms of WKS in Patients

Thiamine deficiency can lead to multiple acute symptoms that are commonly referred to as Wernicke’s Syndrome. Late diagnosis or prolonged treatment of the said symptoms can cause Korsakoff disease or WKS. 

Three main signs or symptoms can be used to diagnose a patient with WKS initially. 

Changes in Mental Status

One of the first changes in a patient’s behavior with Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is the feeling of confusion. The patient may feel disorientated or confused, which is a mild symptom associated with WKS. While in extreme conditions, the patient may face delirium or even go into a coma. 


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Lack of Voluntary Movement Coordination

Those affected with WKS may find walking or standing upright difficult without support or help. This can be one of the earlier symptoms and may cause the patient to be slow or unsteady. 

Abnormalities in Eye Movement

Doctors often diagnose patients with cases of involuntary movements of the eye and even paralysis of eye muscles. While at the same time, double vision and rapid eye movements are also common. 

Medical Liability for Wernicke’s Cases

An early diagnosis is one of the few things that can stop any long-term effects of Wernicke’s. Unfortunately, there are many cases where a patient suffers due to medical malpractice. Your doctors may be liable if you have been diagnosed with Wernicke’s while in medical care. 

Liability of Doctors, Staff, and Medical Facility

Your doctor or medical needs to diagnose vitamin B1 deficiency if a patient reports a neurological problem. If the doctor fails to diagnose B1 deficiency, it becomes the liability of the doctor and medical facility. A simple diagnosis at the right time can stop Wernicke’s from developing. 

Wernicke’s Should Never Happen in a Medical Setting

Wernicke’s should never be a problem if the patient is admitted to a hospital after surgery. The only way a patient can be diagnosed with Wernicke’s while in a medical setting is through negligence. This can be negligence by the doctor or the care staff. In either scenario, you should contact a medical malpractice doctor. 

WKS Developed in a Medical Setting is Medical Malpractice

Being in a medical setting allows the patient to be under observation to stop diseases such as Wernicke’s from developing. A thiamine deficiency injection at the right time can allow life to be saved and stop Wernicke’s in its early stages. However, if the disease continues to develop and goes undiagnosed, then this can be categorized as medical malpractice. 

Contact an Attorney if You or a Loved One Developed WKS Under Medical Care

If you know someone who has developed WKS while under medical care, you should contact the Snapka Law Firm today. Developing WKS under supervision is medical malpractice and can only happen due to negligence. You may be able to claim medical costs, lost wages, and additional lifecare costs. Call our medical malpractice lawyers today for a free case review!

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