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Am J Kidney Dis. 2001 Nov;38(5):941-7.

Thiamine deficiency and unexplained encephalopathy in hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, TaipeiVeterans General Hospital, Taiwan.


Patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing regular dialysis are prone to encephalopathy, but the cause is often unclear. Dialysis patients are at risk for thiamine deficiency, which may mimic many uremic complications, including encephalopathy. To determine whether unexplained encephalopathy in regular dialysis patients is associated with thiamine deficiency, we conducted a prospective study that enrolled 30 consecutive dialysis patients with altered mental status admitted to a referred hospital during a 1-year period. A complete history, physical and neurological examinations, laboratory investigations, and computed tomographic scans or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain were obtained for each subject. In 10 of the 30 patients, diagnoses remained obscure after the initial workup. Manifestations included confusion, chorea, acute visual loss, rapidly progressive dementia, myoclonus, convulsions, and coma. Intravenous thiamine was administered to these 10 patients. All 10 patients had thiamine deficiency confirmed by a marked response to thiamine supplementation and/or a low serum thiamine concentration (35.3 +/- 6.0 nmol/L; normal, >50 nmol/L). Nine patients recovered, but one patient failed to respond because of delayed treatment. We conclude that in regular dialysis patients, unexplained encephalopathy can be mainly attributed to thiamine deficiency. This condition is fatal if unrecognized and can be successfully treated with prompt thiamine replacement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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