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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


A Case of Wernicke Encephalopathy Secondary to Anorexia Nervosa Complicated by Refeeding Syndrome and Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

Keith Brown, Matthew Everwine, Jose Nieves

USA Department of Internal Medicine, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine at Jefferson Health New Jersey, Stratford, NJ, USA

Am J Case Rep 2021; 22:e929891 :: DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.929891

Available online: 2021-02-04, In Press, Corrected Proof

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BACKGROUND Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is a neurological condition commonly associated with sustained alcohol abuse. However, it should be noted that disorders resulting in severe malnutrition, such as anorexia nervosa (AN), can precipitate nonalcoholic WE. AN is a life threatening psychological and eating disorder defined by inappropriate weight loss from food restriction due to the fear of gaining weight and immoderate desire to be thin. Treatment of those suffering with AN can often be complicated by severe electrolyte derangements after caloric intake termed refeeding syndrome. Although extremely rare, severe cardiomyopathy and ultimately death may occur in patients from AN.
CASE REPORT Herein describes the case of a 20-year-old female with AN induced WE complicated by refeeding syndrome and hemodynamic compromise in the setting of findings consistent with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. She required ventilatory and hemodynamic support with aggressive intravenous thiamine and phosphorus repletion. Nutritional supplementation was imperative and carefully administered throughout her hospitalization. Her symptoms improved over the course of a few weeks with an ultimate reversal of her cardiomyopathy.
CONCLUSIONS Given the morbidity surrounding AN, practitioners should exhibit caution when caring for those with severe nutritional deficiencies. Clinicians must monitor for severe electrolyte abnormalities and offer aggressive repletion. In addition to electrolyte derangements, severe cardiomyopathy may result as a rare sequela of the aforementioned complications associated with AN. Moreover, it is imperative to understand that patients with AN have the highest mortality of any psychiatric disorder and early intervention is necessary for survival in this vulnerable patient population.

Keywords: Anorexia Nervosa; Refeeding Syndrome; Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy; Wernicke Encephalopathy