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Wernicke’s encephalopathy post hyperemesis gravidarum misdiagnosed as Guillain-Barre syndrome: lessons for the frontline
  1. Kaushiki Kirty1,
  2. Yashendu Sarda1,
  3. Annu Jacob2 and
  4. Delanthabettu Venugopala2
  1. 1Internal Medicine, Kasturba Medical College Mangalore, Mangalore, India
  2. 2Medicine, Kasturba Medical College Mangalore, Mangalore, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kaushiki Kirty; kaushikikirty{at}


We report a case of a 26-year-old pregnant woman, who presented with subacute limb weakness. This was initially suspected to be Guillain-Barre syndrome but subsequently found to be the motor neuropathy of dry beriberi (vitamin B1, thiamine deficiency) along with associated Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). The underlying cause was revealed as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). HG complicates up to 3% of pregnancies and if severe, without nutritional supplements, may lead to electrolyte disturbances, calorie loss and vitamin deficiency. Although the association of HG and WE was first reported in 1939, it remains an under diagnosed condition with potential for serious and permanent neurological deficits, and some mortality, in both mother and baby. Early recognition of the problem, with timely and careful fluid, electrolyte, glucose and vitamin replacement is needed to avoid complications. We highlight current best practice in the treatment of WE. An open mind to the possibility of HG complications in any pregnant woman presenting with neurological symptoms is probably the most important lesson to learn from the front line.

  • neurology (drugs and medicines)
  • nutrition
  • peripheral nerve disease

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  • Contributors KK, YS and AJ collected the data. KK, YS, AJ and DV wrote the paper. AJ collected the patient’s consent. KK and YS worked on the review.

  • 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.