Thiamine Deficiency Misdiagnosis and Medical Malpractice

Thiamine Deficiency Misdiagnosis and Medical Malpractice

Thiamine deficiency, also called beriberi, is a medical condition that can cause severe neurological and cardiac symptoms. The primary sign of thiamine deficiency is the loss of appetite. It may be misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa or bulimia by physicians who are not aware of this disease. In some cases, there have been death reports due to the delayed diagnosis and treatment of thiamine deficiency-related complications such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Alcoholism is the most common cause of thiamine malabsorption, and many clinicians overlook it in patients who have had bariatric surgery. A thiamine deficit is frequently overlooked and misdiagnosed. The doctor who missed the diagnosis is held accountable when a defect is not detected and treated promptly, resulting in Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome, which causes permanent brain damage or death. Misdiagnosis of Wernicke’s Korsakoff is always medical misconduct.

What is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a form of brain damage that can lead to memory loss and confusion. This syndrome, which often occurs with alcoholism, results from thiamine deficiency. It has been called the “alcoholism dementia” or “wet brain.” Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is mainly developed due to misdiagnosis of Vitamin B1 deficiency.

The Wernicke’s Encephalopathy Symptoms Triad

Patients with thiamine deficiency frequently present to their doctor with problems stemming from the three primary symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the first stage of the disease.

The symptoms of Wernicke’s triangle are as follows:

  • Ataxia, or loss of muscle control and balance
  • Abnormalities in the eyes
  • Confusion

Doctors should be aware that these symptoms indicate a thiamine shortage, especially if the patient has recently undergone bariatric surgery. The stomach of the patient is surgically split into two halves in bariatric surgery. The surgeon will skip the majority of the stomach, and a part of the intestines, such as the duodenum, limiting the amount of food the patient can consume. This can be a great way to lose weight, but it can put your thiamine absorption in danger.

The duodenum (skipped in surgery) absorbs the most thiamine; therefore, bariatric patients have two challenges with thiamine deficits.

The patient is at a considerably higher risk of developing thiamine deficiency and Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome because their bodies can no longer absorb enough thiamine from the food they eat.

Early Diagnosis Of Thiamine Deficiency Is Important

Early diagnosis of thiamine deficiency is essential. The earlier a person with suspected or diagnosed thiamine deficiency starts treatment, the more likely they will get better and have fewer long-term complications from their illness. The only way to diagnose this condition accurately is through blood tests that measure levels of nutrients in your bloodstreams, such as thiamine, iron, and folic acid.

The Bottom Line

Medical malpractice can happen in many ways. One way is misdiagnosing a patient with thiamine deficiency. The symptoms of Thiamine Deficiency are not apparent, so it’s easy for doctors to mistake other illnesses as the cause and prescribe treatments that will worsen their condition or lead to death. If you find yourself facing any of these symptoms, make sure to get the diagnosis as early as possible.

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.