Patients with Korsakoff syndrome in nursing homes: characteristics, comorbidity, and use of psychotropic drugs

Int Psychogeriatr. 2014 Jan;26(1):115-21. doi: 10.1017/S1041610213001543.


Background: Very limited literature exists on the care and course of patients with Korsakoff syndrome (KS) living in long-term care facilities (LTCFs). Even less literature can be found on the pharmacological treatment of behavioral symptoms of KS. The purpose of the present study was to describe baseline characteristics, comorbidity, and the use of psychotropic drugs in institutionalized patients with KS.

Methods: In this cross-sectional descriptive study, 556 patients were included living in ten specialized care units in Dutch nursing homes. Data were collected by means of a retrospective chart review.

Results: The majority of patients were men (75%) and single (78%) with a mean age on admission of 56.7 years (SD 8.9, range 29.8-85.3). Mean length of stay was 6.0 years (SD 5.4, range 0.2-33.3). Sixty-eight percent of patients suffered from at least one somatic disease and 66% from at least one extra psychiatric disorder. One or more psychotropic drugs were prescribed to 71% of patients with a great variation in prescription patterns between the different nursing homes.

Conclusion: Patients with KS depending on long-term care usually have comorbidity in more than one domain (somatic and psychiatric). The indications for prescribing psychotropic drugs are in many cases unclear and it seems probable that they are often given to manage challenging behavior. Longitudinal studies on the evidence for this prescription behavior and possible alternatives are recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Psychotropic Drugs