Weitz & Luxenberg is now accepting cases of people who have suffered Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE), also known as Wernicke encephalopathy, a neuropsychiatric disorder – after having bariatric surgery to achieve long-term weight loss and were subsequently misdiagnosed by emergency department physicians, leading to delayed treatment or lasting brain damage, known as Korsakoff syndrome or Wernicke’s-Korsakoff syndrome.

Health Impacts of Undiagnosed Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Deficiency After Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery

Because of myriad contributing factors, including poor nutrient absorption, malnutrition, or prolonged bouts of vomiting, among others, bariatric surgery patients can experience a nutritional “state of starvation” following surgery that can lead to serious mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency can lead to a wide variety of neurological complications after surgery, often causing patients to seek emergency care for symptoms including mental confusion, disordered memory, involuntary eye movements, slurred speech, unsteadiness or gait abnormalities, and decreased or abnormal sensation in the limbs.

When promptly detected and properly diagnosed, WE can be treated with vitamin B1 administration. However, if misdiagnosed and left untreated and there is a delay in treatment, the lack of vitamin B1 can cause lasting brain damage, especially gait and memory problems. Serious complications of WE can include permanent memory loss, lasting motor function problems, executive brain function problems, coma, and even death.

WE is often misdiagnosed because individuals may present to the emergency department as seemingly physically robust or even obese. Because emergency department physicians are often trained to recognize WE in patients with anorexia, hyperemesis gravidarum (an extreme form of morning sickness), cancer, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, or in those on long-term hemodialysis, they may not recognize the condition when it presents in people who are experiencing WE as a result of having undergone bariatric surgery.

Lack of treatment can cause initial, acute symptoms to progress to those that are permanent, serious, and debilitating. Chronic thiamine deficiency can evolve into Korsakoff syndrome, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a condition characterized by irreversible amnesia, motor impairment, and the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories.

W&L Can Help People Who Suffered After Delayed or Misdiagnosed Wernicke’s Encephalopathy Following Weight Loss Surgery

Weitz & Luxenberg is interested in hearing from anyone who experienced delayed treatment or lasting brain damage from Wernicke’s encephalopathy following bariatric weight loss surgery, such as the following procedures:

  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
  • Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy.
  • Duodenal switch with biliopancreatic diversion.

Symptoms and Injuries

Vitamin B1 deficiency following bariatric weight loss surgery can result in a variety of symptoms and, when treatment is delayed or not administered, long-term injuries. Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy may include:

  • Nystagmus, or involuntary eye movement.
  • Ataxia, or lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements that can include dizziness, poor balance, weakness, difficulty walking, altered gait, inability to walk or stand, slurring of speech.
  • Hearing loss or deafness.
  • Mental confusion, delirium, dulled consciousness, impaired short-term memory, memory loss, fabricated or distorted memories, and other mental defects.
  • Asterixis (a specific type of tremor of the hands).

Some patients may have lesions visible upon imaging the brain (via computed tomography, often referred to as CT, or magnetic resonance imaging, often referred to as MRI), but many do not and a proper diagnosis is made by physicians recognizing clinical symptoms.

People who had bariatric surgery-induced Wernicke’s encephalopathy that was initially undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by an emergency department physician and resulted in lasting brain damage or death should contact Weitz & Luxenberg.

Patients and their families may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other costs. An experienced attorney can help you explore all legal options.

W&L’s Drug and Medical Device Litigation Practice Group has played a lead role in several major medical device and malpractice litigations, including helping to secure a $2.5 billion settlement for patients harmed by defective DePuy ASR hip implants and a $1 billion resolution over recalled Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hip implants.

Weitz & Luxenberg is ready to assist you and offers a free consultation. Contact us at (800) 476-6070 or by using the online form on this page to discuss your legal options.

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