Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Case report
Wernicke’s encephalopathy-induced hearing loss complicating sleeve gastrectomy
  1. Elaf Abdulnabi Mohammed1,
  2. Sulaiman Ali Hajji2,
  3. Khaled Aljenaee3 and
  4. Mohammad Ibrahim Ghanbar4
  1. 1Internal Medicine, Al Adan Hospital, Kuwait, Al Asimah, Kuwait
  2. 2Endocrinology, Al Adan Hospital, Kuwait, Al Asimah, Kuwait
  3. 3Endocrine and Diabetes, Al Adan Hospital, Kuwait, Al Asimah, Kuwait
  4. 4Internal Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elaf Abdulnabi Mohammed; Elaf.agu{at}


A 25-year-old woman brought to the hospital with symptoms of acute confusion, disorientation, diplopia, hearing loss and unsteady gait which started 4 days prior to her presentation with rapid worsening in its course until the day of admission. She had a surgical history of laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy 2 months earlier which was complicated by persistent vomiting around one to three times per day. She lost 30 kg of her weight over 2 months and was not compliant to vitamin supplementation. CT of the brain was unremarkable. Brain MRI was done which showed high signal intensity lesions involving the bilateral thalamic regions symmetrically with restricted diffusion on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery imaging. Other radiological investigations, such as magnetic resonance venography and magnetic resonance angiography of the brain were unremarkable. An official audiogram confirmed the sensorineural hearing loss. A diagnosis of Wernicke’s encephalopathy due to thiamin deficiency post-sleeve gastrectomy was made based on the constellation of her medical background, clinical presentation and further supported by the distinct MRI findings. Consequently, serum thiamin level was requested and intravenous thiamin 500 mg three times per day for six doses was started empirically, then thiamin 250 mg intravenously once daily given for 5 more days. Marked improvement in cognition, eye movements, strength and ambulation were noticed soon after therapy. She was maintained on a high caloric diet with calcium, magnesium oxide, vitamin D supplements and oral thiamin with successful recovery of the majority of her neurological function with normal cognition, strength, reflexes, ocular movements, but had minimal resolution of her hearing deficit. Serum thiamin level later was 36 nmol/L (67–200).

  • obesity (nutrition)
  • neurology
  • malnutrition

Statistics from


  • Contributors EAM was directly involved in patient care. EAM and KA were involved in the conception and design. EAM, SAH and MIG did the data interpretation. EAM, SAH, MIG and KA wrote the report. All authors have contributed to the manuscript editing.

  • 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.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.