Cystic fibrosis associated with Wernicke's encephalopathy in an older adult

BMJ Case Rep. 2022 Jul 27;15(7):e249727. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2022-249727.


Here we report the first case of an association between cystic fibrosis and Wernicke's encephalopathy. The patient had a history of cystic fibrosis diagnosed in her early 60s associated with pancreatitis and chronic lung disease. She presented with a traumatic hip fracture requiring operative repair. On examination, she was found to have bilateral nystagmus. MRI revealed enhancement of the mammillary bodies. Laboratory results were notable for thiamine deficiency, which in context of the radiographic and physical examination findings, confirmed a diagnosis of Wernicke's encephalopathy. The cause of her low thiamine was thought to be poor dietary intake, weight loss and malabsorption associated with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in the setting of a history of recurrent pancreatitis. The patient had complete resolution of her symptoms with the initiation of thiamine supplementation and pancreatic enzymes. Although classically associated with fat soluble vitamin deficiencies, there are increasing reports of water-soluble vitamin deficiencies associated with cystic fibrosis.

Keywords: brain stem / cerebellum; cystic fibrosis; pancreatitis; vitamins and supplements.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pancreatitis* / complications
  • Thiamine / therapeutic use
  • Thiamine Deficiency* / complications
  • Vitamins
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy* / diagnosis
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy* / diagnostic imaging


  • Vitamins
  • Thiamine