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The body requires many different nutrients to stay healthy, especially after an illness or surgery. B1, or thiamine, is a necessary nutrient that is used in sugar metabolism and many other functions that affect almost every cell in the body. When a B1 deficiency develops, it can cause Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome. These disorders can cause brain damage and even death but are avoidable with proper medical care. Unfortunately, some patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are victims of poor medical care or medical malpractice from doctors who could have diagnosed and treated their condition.

B1, or thiamine, is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for maintaining health. A healthy person would rarely suffer a deficiency in B1 in the U.S. or most developed countries, as it is plentiful in many foods. However, certain health disorders or circumstances can deplete thiamine in the body. When a deficiency occurs, a direct result is Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome. B1 deficiencies can occur in people with certain conditions, including:

  • Recovering from gastric bypass surgery
  • Alcoholism
  • Illness-causing excessive nausea or vomiting
  • Liver disease
  • Long-term hospitalization
  • HIV/AIDS, widespread cancer and long-term dialysis

When thiamine is depleted, it can affect the brain. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the damage can be permanent.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Physicians and nurses are well aware of B1 deficiency and the resulting diseases that can occur. When a patient’s food intake is restricted, or they experience excessive vomiting or liver dysfunction, medical professionals have a duty to monitor patients for signs of deficiencies. B1 deficiency and Wernicke encephalopathy have specific symptoms and there are simple tests to diagnose the condition. Symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy include:

  • Abnormal eye movements, double vision and eye drooping
  • Confusion and lack of mental clarity
  • Leg tremors and loss of muscle coordination
  • Trouble concentrating and short-term memory loss
  • Coma

Wernicke encephalopathy is only caused by thiamine deficiency. If not diagnosed and treated with B1 injections or supplementation, Wernicke encephalopathy can cause permanent damage in the form of Korsakoff syndrome, which impacts brain function and memory. While Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome are separate disorders, they are linked, and both caused by thiamine deficiency.

Medical Malpractice and Wernicke Encephalopathy

B1 deficiency is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test, and the symptoms are well-known. Any person who has been under medical care for disorders that can impact the absorption of B1 should be monitored for symptoms of B1 deficiency. If a person suffers brain damage, permanent memory loss, coma or death due to Wernicke encephalopathy or Korsakoff syndrome, it often could have been prevented with routine medical care.

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional does not provide standard care to their patients that would be expected by any similar professional. When a B1 deficiency is not diagnosed or treated, and a patient is seriously harmed due to a lack of medical care, this may be a case of medical malpractice. Patients or their family can seek compensation for medical costs, loss of income and damage to the victim’s health through a medical malpractice claim against the doctors or medical facility.

Have You Suffered a B1 Deficiency, Wernicke Encephalopathy or Korsakoff Syndrome?

If you or a loved one have Wernicke encephalopathy or Korsakoff syndrome that could have been prevented with diagnosis and treatment from a medical professional, you may be eligible to seek compensation. Our legal team at Harman Law Firm is experienced in handling complicated medical malpractice cases, and we will fight for your rights. Contact our firm to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim if medical negligence may have caused Wernicke encephalopathy in you or a loved one.

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