Treatment variability and its relationships to outcomes among patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy: A multicenter retrospective study

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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2023 Sep 9;252:110961. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.110961. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Despite guidelines and recommendations, Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) treatment lacks evidence, leading to clinical practice variability.

AIMS: Given the overall lack of information on thiamine use for WE treatment, we analyzed data from a large, well-characterized multicenter sample of patients with WE, examining thiamine dosages; factors associated with the use of different doses, frequencies, and routes; and the influence of differences in thiamine treatment on the outcome.

METHODS: This retrospective study was conducted with data from 443 patients from 21 centers obtained from a nationwide registry of the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine (from 2000 to 2012). Discharge codes and Caine criteria were applied for WE diagnosis, and treatment-related (thiamine dosage, frequency, and route of administration) demographic, clinical, and outcome variables were analyzed.

RESULTS: We found marked variability in WE treatment and a low rate of high-dose intravenous thiamine administration. Seventy-eight patients out of 373 (20.9%) received > 300mg/day of thiamine as initial dose. Patients fulfilling the Caine criteria or presenting with the classic WE triad more frequently received parenteral treatment. Delayed diagnosis (after 24h hospitalization), the fulfillment of more than two Caine criteria at diagnosis, mental status alterations, and folic acid deficiency were associated significantly with the lack of complete recovery. Malnutrition, reduced consciousness, folic acid deficiency, and the lack of timely thiamine treatment were risk factors for mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results clearly show extreme variability in thiamine dosages and routes used in the management of WE. Measures should be implemented to ensure adherence to current guidelines and to correct potential nutritional deficits in patients with alcohol use disorders or other risk factors for WE.

PMID:37748425 | DOI:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.110961

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