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Wernicke encephalopathy in a lung cancer patient receiving home medical care

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 July 2021

Hiroshi Ito
Ito Internal Medicine and Pediatric Clinic, Fukuoka, Japan
Mayumi Ishida*
Department of Psycho-oncology, Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, Saitama, Japan
Kumi Itami
Department of Nursing, Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, Saitama, Japan
Akira Yoshioka
Department of Clinical Oncology, Mitsubishi Kyoto Hospital, Kyoto, Japan
Izumi Sato
Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan
Nozomu Uchida
Department of General Medicine, Ogano Town Central Hospital, Saitama, Japan
Nobuyuki Onizawa
Department of General Medicine, Anz clinic, Saitama, Japan
Hideki Onishi
Department of Psycho-oncology, Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, Saitama, Japan
Author for correspondence: Mayumi Ishida, Department of Psycho-oncology, Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, 1397-1 Yamane, Hidaka City, Saitama 350-1298, Japan. E-mail:



Cancer patients often want to spend their final days at home, and it is essential that general practitioners have knowledge of and technical skills related to cancer medicine and symptom relief. Recent clinical studies have revealed that Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is quite common in cancer patients. However, there have been no reports to date on WE in cancer patients undergoing home medical care.


From a series of cancer patient undergoing home medical care, we reported a patient with lung cancer who developed WE.


An 84-year-old female with lung cancer undergoing home medical care developed an impaired mental state and an attention deficit. Her symptoms fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for delirium. WE was suspected as the patient's food intake had fallen from normal a month previously to somewhere between 50% or just a few mouthfuls. This diagnosis was supported by abnormal serum thiamine and the disappearance of delirium after thiamine administration.

Significance of the results

When delirium occurs in cancer patients undergoing home treatment, it is necessary to suspect thiamine deficiency as a potential cause, as appropriate diagnosis and treatment can prevent irreversible brain-related sequelae.

Case Report
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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