Thiamine Deficiency Misdiagnosis & Medical Malpractice
When you or a loved one undergoes bariatric or weight loss surgery, you might be at risk of developing a disorder you didn’t even know exists.
After surgery, many people are fine and go on to do well. Unfortunately, some people will go on to develop a thiamine deficiency that can have dangerous consequences.
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is vital for the body to function, but it’s most important in the neurological system. The human body cannot create thiamine, so it must be consumed through a healthy diet or a supplement. When the body can absorb and process nutrients properly, it can hold a “store” of thiamine that can last up to two weeks. The thiamine levels must be replenished though, or important functions will cease, and dangerous situations will develop.
Without an adequate supply of thiamine, a disease known as Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome can develop. This disease creates lesions on the brain which can lead to permanent brain damage and death.
The most common contributing factor to the malabsorption of thiamine is alcoholism, and often doctors don’t think to look for it in patients who have undergone bariatric surgery.
Too often, a thiamine deficiency is missed and therefore misdiagnosed. When the deficiency is not diagnosed and treated in time, leading to Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome that results in the patient suffering from permanent brain damage or death, then the doctor who missed the diagnosis is responsible for their failure.
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the Wernicke's encephalopathy triad of symptoms
Patients with a thiamine deficiency will often arrive at the physician with complaints that stem from the three main symptoms of the first stage of the disease – Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
This triangle of Wernicke's symptoms are:
Doctors should know that these symptoms point to a thiamine deficiency especially if the person afflicted with these symptoms has recently undergone bariatric surgery.
In bariatric surgery, the patient’s stomach is surgically separated into two different parts. The surgeon will bypass the larger part of the stomach as well as a portion of the intestines including the duodenum, which will prevent the patient from consuming as much food. This can be an excellent option for weight loss purposes, but it can present a risk when it comes to thiamine absorption.
The two problems bariatric patients face regarding thiamine deficiencies are that they have their diets severely restricted and that the duodenum (which is bypassed in surgery) is responsible for absorbing the most thiamine.
Because the patient’s body can no longer absorb enough thiamine through the food they eat, they are at a much higher risk of developing a thiamine deficiency and Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome.
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early diagnosis of thiamine DEFICIENCY is crucial
Early diagnosis of a thiamine deficiency is vital to the outcome for the patient. Supplementing the patient with thiamine is not a difficult task, and it can often reverse much of the damage that has been done.
A doctor should know which symptoms to look for and should be aware that bariatric patients are at a higher risk for this problem. Unfortunately, nearly 80% of thiamine deficiency cases are misdiagnosed resulting in delayed treatment.
If you believe that you or a loved one have experienced a misdiagnosis of thiamine deficiency which has led to permanent brain damage or death, call us today to determine your options.
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