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May 1968

Idiopathic Polyneuritis After Surgery

Author Affiliations

From the Neurology Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Arch Neurol. 1968;18(5):500-507. doi:10.1001/archneur.1968.00470350058005

THE ETIOLOGY of idiopathic polyneuritis (Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome) is unknown. Perhaps half the cases give a history of an antecedent infectious illness. Usually this has occurred two to three weeks before the neuritic symptoms begin. The antecedent illness is often described as influenza-like, although sometimes backache and diarrhea are prominent. How preceding illness is linked to subsequent polyneuritis is by no means clear, but it seems probable that it somehow acts as a precipitating event.

Other precipitating events leading to polyneuritis have been recorded. Prolonged fever therapy, in the days when it was practiced, was followed occasionally by a polyneuritis after a latent interval of about two weeks.1 Polyneuritis has also been seen occasionally after prophylactic antirabies vaccination.2

In recent years we have seen six cases of idiopathic polyneuritis as a sequel to a surgical procedure. In two instances postmortem examination of peripheral nerve confirmed the diagnosis of

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