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June 2001

The Challenge of Respiratory Dysfunction in Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Arch Neurol. 2001;58(6):871-872. doi:10.1001/archneur.58.6.871

GUILLAIN-BARRÉ SYNDROME (GBS) is the most common cause of acute neuromuscular paralysis in Western countries, affecting between 1 and 4 per 100 000 population annually.1 Diagnosis of GBS is based on a set of defined clinical and laboratory criteria2 and on the exclusion of other causes of acute neuromuscular weakness. Electrodiagnostic studies are most helpful for defining the peripheral neuropathy and GBS subtype.3 Weakness develops acutely within hours to a few days, usually involving the legs first, but often eventually leading to flaccid quadriparesis, facial diplegia, and bulbar weakness. Patients may become bedridden and, in severe cases, totally paralyzed with the inherent compromise of respiration and autonomic functions. About 25% to 30% of the patients with GBS require mechanical ventilation at some time during their illness.