Treating Wernicke’s encephalopathy

Left untreated, there can be serious brain consequences. Refamiliarise yourself with best-practice management for this condition.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy is an underrecognised and undertreated acute neurological condition.


Caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, it may result in confusion, ocular signs and ataxia. In up to 85% of untreated cases, it leads to Korsakoff syndrome, typified by severe memory loss and confabulation.1

Pathological changes related to Wernicke’s encephalopathy are identified post-mortem in 1.3-2.8% of the general population and in 9.3% of those with alcohol abuse.2,3

In most cases the clinical diagnosis is missed ante-mortem.2