In 1897, Murawieff proposed that a common cause was responsible for the two syndromes previously described by Carl Wernicke and Sergei Korsakoff. More than 100 years afterwards, the neuropsychiatric nosological entity known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome remains one of the most significant, yet under-recognized, consequences of long-term alcohol abuse.
Prompt recognition and treatment of Wernicke's encephalopathy with parenteral thiamine can prevent permanent cognitive impairment, involving severe short-term memory loss - Korsakoff's amnesic syndrome. Such condition has devastating consequences for patients, not infrequently demanding long-term institutionalization.
Based on two clinical vignettes, the authors review some epidemiological, clinical and neuropathological features of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, besides issues concerning differential diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.