British Liver Trust
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Severe confusion

Hi guys

My mum has had cirrhosis since 2014. Once diagnosed she carried on drinking. She had 18 kg of fluid drained from her belly in July this year, then came to live with me. Since then she has been in and out of hospital with varying degrees of confusion. This time she's been in there for 3 weeks. She's had infusion of vitamins which hasn't really helped. Wernickes - korosokof syndrome has been mentioned. What is the recovery rate from this condition? Has anyone experienced this?

7 Replies

Hi Lou77, I replied to you last night on your similar post on the Liver4Life's Health Unlocked page.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome isn't a liver illness but a brain damaging illness due to thiamine deficiency often in alcoholics (sometimes referred to wet brain or alcohol induced dementia) . It's not a syndrome which has been discussed much on here, however, it is possible she could have this and also/or a liver related condition called HEPATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY - some hospitals are slow to identify this and often mis-identify symptoms (I know of one poster on here who was arrested for being abusive when it was HE causing his behaviour and one lady who's non-drinking husband was given librium in hospital for his alcohol withdrawal symptoms when all along it was Hepatic Encephalopathy).

With your mum's advanced cirrhosis it is very likely she is suffering from HEPATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY which certainly leads to confusion and other isssues and it is caused by too many toxins ending up in the blood stream and brain. At the lower end it can lead to confusion, memory and concentration difficulties, sleep disturbance etc. At the upper end it can lead to personality changes, poor handwriting or co-ordination, unusual behaviours completely out of character for the individual, an uncontrolled hand flapping (called asterixis) and even coma or death. Doctors should have prescribed LACTULOSE which will help your mum go to the toilet frequently during the day thereby removing some of the toxins in her stools plus many folks see great improvements through taking RIFAXIMIN.

From reading up a little be on WKS ( ) it is a rare condition whereas HE is very, very common in those with cirrhosis.

I hope you get some help with your mum's condition very soon.

Katie x


Hi thanks for the replies. My mum was a chronic alcoholic so wk may be likely according to docs. Have read about hc and it could be that also. She's been taking lactulose for a long time x


Sometimes Lactulose may not be enough , and at the first sign of HE the dosage should be increased any way. Try and get her on Rifaximin too, the pain together work much better if it is HE , which in reality it probably is.


I have read up on both conditions. Does anyone have experience of people getting better mentally. My mum has been in hospital with this severe confusion for 3 weeks 😔


If it is HE then only high dose lactulose (sometimes even via an enema) combined with rifaximin is likely to reverse the HE symptoms. They need to reduce the toxins in her blood stream.

No idea if it is the WKS.


Hi guys Spoken to the doctor earlier they do think it's wks. This is very sad as they said she will not improve mentally. They are looking for somewhere for her? She had moved in with me. Hopefully she'll be able to come home at some point. Feels like I've lost her after just being reunited. She moved away for 16 years and was in an abusive relationship, which is why she drank so much. She wouldn't leave, it was very difficult. I was happy when she had ascites fluid drained and the hospital where she lived previously said she couldn't go back to where she lived. Maybe if she'd left sooner I wouldn't have lost her 😔I was hoping to give her a couple of wonderful years before the inevitable happened, maybe even get on the transplant list after being sober for 6 months..


Hi lou... my husband was diagnosed last Aug with wernickes encephalopathy...alcohol dependancy...did a detoxing one told him importance of thiamine with detoxing especially as wasn't eating...he came across drunk...although very much sober, fell ended up in hospital...he had ataxia (couldn't walk or talk) confusion...lots of hallucinations..nystagmus, hyperthermia and hypertensive as nervous system was shutting down..he was given iv pabrinex (21 bags over 7 days) his nystagmus very much improved almost immediately..but now a yr on and still on vitamins he had mobility deficit...he is abstinent from alcohol (very important) memory problems...walks with a walker...but unlike your mum, my husbands liver scan came back negative for cirrhosis..only thing is he's now left with essential tremor, drop foot, peripheral neuropathy, NEAD and bells palsy...

Do defiantly ask Dr's questions..ct and mri I imagine have been done? Thing with wernickes it's only diagnosed by a clinical diagnosis...

I hope you get the answers you need and your mum feels better soon...x

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