Which patient groups have the highest prevalence of Wernicke encephalopathy (WE)?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018
  • Author: Philip N Salen, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew K Chang, MD, MS  more...
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The male-to-female ratio for WE is 1.7:1, likely owing to alcoholism being 3-4 times more frequent in men than in women.

Average age at onset of WE is 50 years. However, WE can occur in small numbers in unusual situations, such as in total parenteral nutrition ̶ dependent patients during a multivitamin shortage, in persons with hyperemesis gravidarum, or in infants who are fed thiamine-deficient infant formula. [3] WE typically occurs in adults with risk factors (alcoholism, post bariatric surgery, malnutrition), but can occur even in formula-fed infants if their formula lacks thiamine supplementation.

Race does not predispose to WE.

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