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Wernicke Encephalopathy A Risk After Bariatric Surgery

Doctors report case in which patient developed anorexia, hearing loss, other symptoms

THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Bariatric surgery for obesity can result in Wernicke encephalopathy, which may have an atypical clinical presentation, according to a case study published in the Dec. 27 issue of Neurology.

Raul N. Mandler, M.D., of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues studied a 35-year-old woman who developed nausea, anorexia, fatigue, hearing loss, forgetfulness and ataxia after undergoing bariatric surgery.

An MRI scan showed signs of Wernicke encephalopathy. After increasing the patient's intravenous dose of thiamine to 100 mg every eight hours, the investigators found that her eye muscles gradually returned to normal and her confusion decreased. Another MRI scan 11 days later showed improvement, but the scan also indicated another sign of Wernicke encephalopathy: spots in the premotor and motor regions due to hemorrhaging.

"Patients who have had bariatric surgery require a high index of suspicion for Wernicke encephalopathy so that prompt treatment can be given to prevent devastating and often permanent disability," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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