What is the role of lab tests in the evaluation of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS)?

Updated: May 16, 2018
  • Author: Glen L Xiong, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Laboratory studies to detect various morbidities in the diagnosis of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome include the following:

  • Electrolytes - To rule out an acute metabolic derangement causing mental confusion

  • Lactic acidosis may occur as a result of thiamine deficiency and is often under-recognized. Supplementation with thiamine often leads to resolution of lactic acidosis [38, 39]

  • Magnesium level as it may explain impaired thiamine utilization [40]

  • Complete blood count (CBC) - To rule out an acute infectious process, thrombocytosis, or erythrocytosis predisposing to thrombosis and infarction

  • Coagulation panel - To evaluate for a potential bleeding diathesis

  • Arterial blood gas - To evaluate for hypoxemia, hypercarbia, acidosis, or alkalosis

  • Serum/urine toxic drug screen - To rule out acute toxic ingestion; this is most helpful if results are available rapidly

  • Liver-associated enzymes - May provide evidence of alcohol abuse or liver dysfunction

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