The challenge of diagnosing Wernicke’s encephalopathy

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Legally reviewed by:
Steven R. Davis and John A. Davis, Jr.
February 20, 2024

Texas residents who are afflicted with what is known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy may not receive a prompt proper diagnosis of their condition. One of the reasons why this lack of timely diagnosis occurs is because of a persistent, prevalent misconception that Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a condition that impacts only a select cohort of individuals.
In fact, researchers have concluded that Wernicke’s encephalopathy impacts a larger swath of people. Consequently, physicians need to be aware of the broader implications of this medical condition in order to avoid a misdiagnosis.

What is Wernicke’s encephalopathy?

Wernicke’s encephalopathy occurs as the result of a thiamine deficiency. Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include:

  • An altered cognitive state
  • Gait issues or disturbances
  • Nystagmus or eye drift
  • Other eye movement disorders

Wernicke’s encephalopathy and individuals with alcohol use disorder

Historically, medical professionals ascribed Wernicke’s encephalopathy to being a condition associated exclusively with individuals with some type of alcohol use disorder. Wernicke’s encephalopathy was described as a condition arising only among the alcohol-dependent population.

Recognized scope of Wernicke’s encephalopathy today

Medical professionals now understand that Wernicke’s encephalopathy impacts individuals who are not alcohol-dependent. These include a number of patient groups:

  • Individuals who have had bariatric surgery
  • People who underwent gastrointestinal surgery
  • Individuals diagnosed with pancreatitis

The failure to properly diagnose a person in a reasonably timely manner is one of the more common incidents of medical malpractice in the United States. The failure to appropriately understand the scope of patients impacted by a condition like Wernicke’s encephalopathy can result in a significant amount of harm.

John A. Davis, Jr.


John A. Davis, Jr. and Steven R. Davis

February 20 2024

Steven R. Davis and John A. Davis, Jr. are experienced attorneys at Davis & Davis, a law firm that specializes in medical malpractice cases in Texas. With a deep commitment to justice that guides their ethical approach, Davis and Davis have dedicated their careers to helping victims of medical negligence. They and their team continue to advocate for clients, despite the challenges posed by Texas's cap on recoverable damages in malpractice lawsuits. Davis & Davis pride themselves on their extensive experience in the field and their readiness to meet clients across the United States.

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