Wernicke-Korsakoff-syndrome: under-recognized and under-treated.


Journal Article (Review)

BACKGROUND: Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a well described syndrome of neurological and cognitive problems that comprises both Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) and Korsakoff syndrome (KS). WE is an acute neuropsychiatric disorder caused by thiamine deficiency. KS is a chronic consequence of thiamine deficiency with prominent impairment in memory formation. METHOD: The authors review the literature on the pathophysiology, presentation, and treatment of WKS, focusing on the acute identification and treatment of WE. RESULTS: Most cases of WE are missed by clinicians, likely because patients do not present with the classic signs associated with the condition. Attaining high serum levels of thiamine during treatment may be important to restore cognitive function as quickly as possible, though the exact dosing and route needed for effective treatment is unknown. Data indicates that the administration of intravenous (IV) thiamine has little risk. CONCLUSION: In order to prevent this potentially devastating disease, physicians should have a high index of suspicion for WKS and dose thiamine accordingly.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Isenberg-Grzeda, E; Kutner, HE; Nicolson, SE

Published Date

  • November 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 53 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 507 - 516

PubMed ID

  • 23157990

Pubmed Central ID

  • 23157990

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1545-7206

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-3182

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.psym.2012.04.008


  • eng