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Case report
Case of non-alcoholic Wernicke’s encephalopathy
  1. Mark D Theodoreson1,
  2. Ausrine Zykaite1,
  3. Michael Haley1 and
  4. Saroj Meena2
  1. 1 General Medicine, Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Weston-super-Mare, UK
  2. 2 Radiology, Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Weston-super-Mare, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ausrine Zykaite; ausrine.zykaite{at}


A 61-year-old obese man presented with 8-week history of nausea and occasional vomiting. He reported poor appetite and unintentional weight loss of more than 20 kg of his body mass. A week after admission, he developed double vision and unsteady gait. Neurological examination revealed isolated sixth cranial nerve palsy on the left side with horizontal nystagmus that progressed to bilateral lateral gaze palsy with normal vertical gaze. Brain MR revealed T2/fluid attenuation inversion recovery (FLAIR) high signal in mammillary bodies, tectum of the midbrain and the periaqueductal grey matter. He was diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). WE is a medical emergency that carries high mortality yet can be often under-diagnosed in the non-alcoholic patient. Varied presentation and absence of alcohol dependence lowers the degree of suspicion and this was true in this case. The patient was given intravenous thiamine and made a rapid and dramatic recovery.

  • nutrition and metabolism
  • neurology
  • gastroenterology
  • brain stem/cerebellum
  • radiology

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  • Contributors MDT managed the patient, conceived the idea and planned the case review, took the lead in writing, advised other authors and supervised the work. AZ participated in writing and shaping the project and provided critical feedback. MH managed the patient, advised other authors, provided critical feedback and helped shape the project. SM advised other authors and provided critical feedback.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.