Prevalence of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in Australia: Has thiamine fortification made a difference?

Clive G. Harper, Donna L. Sheedy, Ana I. Lara, Therese M. Garrick, John M. Hilton, Jack Raisanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the prevalence of the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) in Australia and compare this with previous studies. Design and setting: Prospective autopsy study at the New South Wales Institute of Forensic Medicine, 1996-1997. Methods: Brains of deceased people (aged over 15 years) derived from 2212 sequential autopsies performed between 1 January 1996 and 31 December 1997 were studied macroscopically and microscopically to identify cases of WKS. Main outcome measures: Standard histological criteria for WKS and any available clinical data. Results: Twenty-five cases of WKS were identified (prevalence, 1.1%), mostly among the 5.9% of the 2212 people who had a history suggestive of alcohol abuse. Only four cases (16%) had been diagnosed during life. Conclusions: There has been a significant reduction in the prevalence of WKS in Australia since the introduction of thiamine enrichment of bread flour. While the prevalence is still higher than in most other Western countries, further research is needed before adding thiamine to alcoholic beverages can be recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-545
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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