Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy in which the body’s immune system attacks peripheral nerves. Clinical and epidemiological evidence seems to indicate that most cases are preceded by an infection such as Campylobacter jejuni enteritis, but in many cases, no cause is identified.
GBS is characterized by symmetrical muscle weakness that begins in the legs and ascends. The degree of weakness can vary from mild difficulty with ambulation to complete paralysis of the extremities. Severe respiratory muscle weakness necessitating ventilatory support can also develop. Sensory abnormalities may be present, such as paresthesias in the hands and feet. Deep tendon reflexes may be present or absent.
The main modalities of disease-modifying therapy for GBS are plasmapheresis and intravenous immune globulin (IVIG).
Jorge Muniz is an internal medicine physician assistant, illustrator, and author of Sparkson’s Illustrated Guide to ECG Interpretation and Medcomic: The Most Entertaining Way to Study Medicine. Neil Bobenhouse is a medical student and author of McGraw-Hill Education’s Medical Spanish Visual Phrasebook: 825 Questions & Responses.
Image credit: Medcomic.com