Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 181–194 | Cite as

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy: Expanding the Diagnostic Toolbox

  • Mary E. LoughEmail author


Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE) is a life threatening neurological disorder that results from thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency. Clinical signs include mental status changes, ataxia, occulomotor changes and nutritional deficiency. The conundrum is that the clinical presentation is highly variable. WE clinical signs, brain imaging, and thiamine blood levels, are reviewed in 53 published case reports from 2001 to 2011; 81 % (43/53) were non-alcohol related. Korsakoff Syndrome or long-term cognitive neurological changes occurred in 28 % (15/53). Seven WE cases (13 %) had a normal magnetic resonance image (MRI). Four WE cases (8 %) had normal or high thiamine blood levels. Neither diagnostic tool can be relied upon exclusively to confirm a diagnosis of WE.


Wernicke’s Encephalopathy Thiamine MRI 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford Hospital and ClinicsStanfordUSA

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