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Guillain-Barre syndrome is an acute, inflammatory, postinfectious polyneuropathy.
A prodromal malaise with vomiting, headache, fever and limb pains is rapidly
surmounted by a progressive and ascending paralysis. This can lead to respiratory
dysfunction, and as such, the acute presentation can be a neurological emergency.
GBS has an incidence of about 1/100,000 across several studies in a number
The incidence of GBS increases in incidence with age and there is a small
predominance of males (1)
- 2016 will mark the centenary of the original description by Guillain, Barré
- in their original paper they described a rapidly progressive motor disorder
associated with absent reflexes and a raised CSF protein in the absence
of the expected cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis that characterised
- syndrome varied in severity so that in its severest form it could
lead to respiratory paralysis and death
- subtypes of GBS (3):
- acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP)
- the most frequent subtype in the Western world with a primarily demyelinating
pathology and various degrees of secondary axonal damage
- acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN)
- the next most frequent and appears to be a primary axonal disorder
affecting just motor nerves
- Acute Motor and Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN)
- axonal variants involving both sensory and motor nerves are much rarer
- Miller Fisher syndrome
- generally considered to be allied to GBS although it has a uniquely
tight association with anti-GQ1b antibodies
- Sejvar JJ, Baughman AL, Wise M, Morgan OW. Population incidence of Guillain-Barré
syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroepidemiology. 2011;36(2):123-133
- Guillain G, Barré J, Strohl A. Sur un syndrome de radiculo-nevrite avec
hyperalbuminose du liquide cephalorachidien sans reaction cellulaire. Remarques
sur les characteres clinique et graphique des reflexes tendinaux. Bulletins
et Memories de la Societe Medicale des Hopitaux de Paris. 1916;40:1462-1470.
- Griffin JW, Li CY, Ho TW, et al. Guillain-Barré syndrome in northern China.
The spectrum of neuropathological changes in clinically defined cases. Brain.
Pathol 2001 Dec;54(6):381-5 Guillain Barre syndrome. Winer JB.
Last reviewed 01/2018