Thiamine Prescribing and Wernicke’s Encephalopathy Risk Factors in Patients With Alcohol Use Disorders at a Psychiatric Hospital

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Abstract

Background:

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the leading cause of thiamine deficiency and can lead to Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). WE has a higher prevalence of development in patients with AUD, and current recommendations emphasize parenteral administration of thiamine. Our objective was to characterize thiamine utilization in patients with AUD who were prescribed thiamine and evaluate if those who received oral thiamine had risk factors for the development of WE.

Methods:

This retrospective chart review enrolled adults admitted to a psychiatric hospital from October 2014 through September 2015 diagnosed with AUD as per the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Edition (ICD-9). The cohort was divided on the basis of route of thiamine administration (nonparenteral vs. parenteral) and was then screened retrospectively for risk factors for WE. Descriptive data and measures of central tendency were utilized to assess the objectives.

Results:

The majority of patients were white male individuals, with a mean age of 48 years. Of the 226 patients, 201 (89%) were prescribed oral thiamine. Of the first 100 patients who received oral thiamine, 36% had risk factors for WE, with the most common risk factor being malnutrition. A χ2 analysis revealed that WE risk factors did not influence route of thiamine administration (χ2=2.148, df=1, P=0.143). No patients were diagnosed with WE during their admission; however, 8 patients received parenteral thiamine at a treatment dose indicated for WE.

Conclusions:

Parenteral thiamine is underutilized in patients with AUD and risk factors for WE. Education is needed to enhance thiamine prescribing and evaluation of risk factors for WE in this population. A thiamine prescribing protocol has been developed for further thiamine optimization.

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