How is Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) treated?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018
  • Author: Philip N Salen, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew K Chang, MD, MS  more...
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Rapid correction of brain thiamine deficiency is the goal of therapy. [4]  WE must be viewed as a medical emergency, even if other, competing diagnoses of CNS processes are being considered. Because the condition is potentially reversible, institution of treatment is indicated in patients exhibiting any combination of symptoms and signs, particularly if the patient is in a high-risk population. Onset of the disease may be acute, subacute, or chronic. Administration of thiamine improves the patient’s condition to some degree in almost all cases; however, persistent neurologic dysfunction is common. [5]  Oral absorption is unreliable in patients at risk of Wernicke encephalopathy, which emphasizes the importance of parenteral treatment. [4]

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