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Korsakoff Psychosis

(Korsakoff Amnestic Syndrome; Korsakoff's Psychosis)

By

Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;


Rika O’Malley

, MD, Albert Einstein Medical Center

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Korsakoff psychosis is a late complication of persistent Wernicke encephalopathy and results in memory deficits, confusion, and behavioral changes.

Other triggers include head injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage, thalamic hemorrhage, thalamic ischemic stroke, and, infrequently, tumors affecting the paramedian posterior thalamic region (see Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) read more ).

Symptoms and Signs of Korsakoff Psychosis

Immediate memory is severely affected; retrograde and anterograde amnesia Amnesias Amnesia is partial or total inability to recall past experiences or inability to store new memories after the causative event. It may result from traumatic brain injury, degeneration, metabolic... read more occur in varying degrees in patients with Korsakoff psychosis. Patients tend to draw on memory of remote events, which appears to be less affected than memory of recent events. Disorientation to time is common. Emotional changes are common; they include apathy, blandness, or mild euphoria with little or no response to events, even frightening ones. Spontaneity and initiative may be decreased.

Confabulation is often a striking early feature. Bewildered patients unconsciously fabricate imaginary or confused accounts of events they cannot recall; these fabrications may be so convincing that the underlying disorder is not detected.

Diagnosis of Korsakoff Psychosis

  • Clinical evaluation

Diagnosis of Korsakoff psychosis is based on typical symptoms in patients with a history of severe chronic alcohol dependence Chronic effects Alcohol (ethanol) is a central nervous system depressant. Large amounts consumed rapidly can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death. Large amounts chronically consumed damage the liver... read more . Other causes of symptoms (eg, central nervous system injury or infection) must be ruled out.

Treatment of Korsakoff Psychosis

  • Thiamin and supportive care

Treatment consists of thiamin and adequate hydration.

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