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Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders - Drug Targets


ISSN (Print): 1871-5303
ISSN (Online): 2212-3873

Case Report

A Case of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy After Sleeve Gastrectomy

Author(s): Elena Sani*, Giuliana Da Prato, Veronica Gremes, Francesco Valletta, Matilde Bariani and Maria Grazia Zenti

Volume 23, Issue 12, 2023

Published on: 19 July, 2023

Page: [1548 - 1551] Pages: 4

DOI: 10.2174/1871530323666230508152340

Price: $65


Background: Wernicke's encephalopathy, resulting from thiamine deficiency, is a rare but serious neurological complication of bariatric procedures. A clinical and radiologic diagnosis is often difficult, and thiamine blood tests are not broadly available. Only a few cases of Wernicke’s encephalopathy after sleeve gastrectomy have been reported in the literature, nonetheless, subjects can be underdiagnosed, and their cases can be underreported.

Case Presentation: We present the case of a 20-year-old female patient who developed Wernicke’s encephalopathy after sleeve gastrectomy for grade II obesity with metabolic complications. She was presented to the Emergency Department showing confusion, gait ataxia and horizontal nystagmus two months after surgery. Persistent vomiting and lack of compliance with vitamin intake were reported. Cerebral MRI showed acute bilateral lesions in the periaqueductal and periventricular regions. Parenteral thiamine supplementation was administered, obtaining a progressive resolution of altered mental status, motor ataxia, and nystagmus. She was discharged on oral thiamine supplementation and underwent a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program, since anterograde, retrograde, and working memory impairment persisted. After a 2-year follow-up, she was compliant with a balanced fractionated diet and vitamin supplementation. A new cerebral MRI showed regression of the neuroradiological findings, but minimal memory impairment remained.

Conclusion: Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a concrete possibility after sleeve gastrectomy and should always be suspected in patients with recurrent vomiting, poor nutritional intake, and non-compliance to vitamin supplementation. Immediate and aggressive thiamine supplementation is mandatory to prevent patients from irreversible neurological impairment, even though full recovery is not always achieved.

Keywords: Wernicke’s encephalopathy, sleeve gastrectomy, thiamine deficiency, bariatric surgery, acute neurological disorder, radiologic diagnosis.

Graphical Abstract
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