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Gazzetta Medica Italiana Archivio per le Scienze Mediche 2012 August;171(4):509-11

Copyright © 2012 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Hepatic encephalopathy or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome? A case report

Rosca E. C. 1, Rosca O. 2

1 Department of Neurology, “Victor Babes” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Timisoara, Romania; 2 Department of Infectious Diseases, “Victor Babes” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Timisoara, Romania


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The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is one of the gravest consequences of alcoholism but, due to the paucity of symptoms, it is often difficult to diagnose, a high index of suspicion being necessary. We present the case of a 56-year-old male with decompensated alcoholic cirrhosis with an acute confusional syndrome, ataxia and memory deficits. Because of his preexisting cirrhosis and untypical clinical signs, the initial diagnosis was hepatic encephalopathy but the paraclinical investigations did not confirm the suspicion. We raised the possibility of a Wernicke-Korsakoff encephalopathy and started intravenous treatment with thiamine, the patient’s status improving considerably.

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