Guideline: Early treatment for Guillain-Barr syndrome may speed recovery

ST. PAUL, MN Treating Guillain-Barr syndrome early may speed up the recovery time, according to a guideline developed by the American Academy of Neurology. The guideline is published in the September 23 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Treatment should begin within two to four weeks after the first symptoms appear. Guillain-Barr syndrome (GBS) causes rapid onset of weakness and often paralysis of the legs, arms, face and breathing muscles. It is the most common cause of rapidly acquired paralysis in the United States, affecting between one and four people in every 100,000 each year.

Guillain-Barr is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system. The human body produces proteins called antibodies to fight off infections. In GBS, the body produces extra antibodies that become misdirected and attack and damage the nerves.

The guideline examined all of the scientific research on the disorder in order to determine which treatments were most effective.

The review of the evidence found that two treatments plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) are equally beneficial for adults with severe, early GBS. These treatments could also be considered for treating children with severe GBS.

"This means that people who are severely affected should be treated early with either IVIg or plasma exchange," said guidelines co-author Richard Hughes, MD, of Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London, England. "Neurologists and their patients should consider that IVIg has somewhat fewer side effects and is more convenient."

IVIg is a medication given intravenously. Immunoglobulin is a protein in human blood that helps the body find and destroy unfamiliar substances, such as viruses. In plasma exchange, blood is removed from the body and the plasma is separated from the red and white blood cells. Because plasma carries antibodies

Contact: Marilee Reu
American Academy of Neurology

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