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Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1987;717:47-54.

Brain lesions in alcoholics: neuropathological observations.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, UllevĂ„l Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


Examination of the autopsy material from a city hospital in Oslo gave the following results: 1. The brain weight of male alcoholics was significantly lower than that of age-matched controls in all 10-year age groups from 40 to 69 years. The mean weight reduction was 31 g. 2. Combined morphometric and histologic studies demonstrated atrophy of the anterior vermis in 42 per cent of all male alcoholics under 70 years of age. In cases over 70 years, 33 per cent of the non-alcoholic controls showed atrophy of the anterior vermis. This is assumed to be a consequence of physiologic ageing. The prevalence of alcoholic cerebellar atrophy could therefore not be determined in this age group. 3. Wernicke's encephalopathy was found in 12.5 per cent of all alcoholics and in 0.8 per cent of all autopsies. One third of the Wernicke cases had acute and subacute lesions while two thirds were chronic. Most of the acute lesions were widespread and severe. The chronic lesions were more restricted but showed great variations in extent and severity within the affected areas. There were corresponding variations in the severity of the clinical symptoms.

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