We aimed to elucidate characteristics of beriberi neuropathy (BB) in a general hospital (GH) setting. Nerve conduction studies (NCS), cross‐ referenced with clinical records of patients admitted to a GH, [May 2011‐ July 2017], were reviewed for diagnosis of BB. Thirteen patients (age range 23‐64 years; five women) were diagnosed with BB. Eleven were incarcerated [2‐ 24 months] at time of index event. Eleven reported prior, severe anorexia [2‐6 months]; five reported significant weight loss, three had recurrent vomiting and three reported alcohol misuse. Commonest presentation was weakness (12/13); nine had symptom evolution over ≥ 3 weeks. At nadir, 11/13 could not walk independently. Other features included numbness/paraesthesiae (10/13), dysautonomia (6/13), vocal cord dysfunction /dysphagia (4/13), nystagmus (3/13). Pain was not prominent. Cerebrospinal fluid, tested in five patients, was acellular; one showed mildly increased protein. NCS showed predominantly sensorimotor, axonal polyneuropathy, rarely asymmetric. Only one patient had sural‐sparing pattern. All received high dose thiamine. 2/13 received intravenous immunoglobulin for suspicion of Guillain‐Barré Syndrome (GBS). Eleven improved to independent ambulation. One patient died from pulmonary embolism; one was lost to follow‐up. 2/13 had residual neurocognitive effects; both misused alcohol.

Besides GBS, BB is an important cause of acute to subacute flaccid paralysis, especially in incarcerated patients and those with significant dietary deprivation. Features favoring BB over GBS are ≥ 3 weeks of symptoms, nystagmus, confusion, vocal cord dysfunction, volume overload, normal spinal fluid, elevated lactate and absence of sural‐sparing pattern in NCS.

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