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What is the Best Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treatment?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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The two primary Guillain-Barre syndrome treatments are intravenous immunoglobulin and plasma exchange. Intravenous immunoglobulin is probably the best Guillain-Barre syndrome treatment because it tends to be safer than plasma exchange. Counseling is also often important during the recovery phase of the condition; it may help the patient come to terms with the syndrome and how to cope with it. Physiotherapy to stop the patient from getting stiff and to reduce pain levels is also sometimes recommended.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious condition; as a result, most people initial receive treatment in a hospital. This is to allow the monitoring of the patient’s breathing and other vitals. If the patient starts to experience difficulty breathing, he or she may be put on a ventilator. Guillain-Barre syndrome treatment in the hospital also helps to speed up recovery. Most people recuperate from the condition within six months, but not everyone makes a complete recovery.

There are two main forms of Guillain-Barre syndrome treatment: intravenous immunoglobulin and plasma exchange. While there is not necessarily a best Guillain-Barre syndrome treatment for all situations, intravenous immunoglobulin is considered to be safer and more straightforward. There are situations, however, where plasma exchange may be recommended.

Intravenous immunoglobulin is a Guillain-Barre syndrome treatment that involves preventing further attack on the peripheral nerve system by injecting antibodies into the patient. These antibodies, taken from a donor to ensure they are healthy, are effective at blocking the damaging antibodies which are causing the condition. A relatively high dose of antibodies is required to make a difference.

Plasma exchange is only marginally more dangerous, but is harder to perform. Plasma, which is part of the patient’s blood, is taken out of the body and separated from the blood cells. The blood cells are then injected back into the body. This prevents the plasma from attacking the nervous system. Healthy plasma is then reproduced by the body over time.

Aside from the two main Guillain-Barre syndrome treatments, there are a number of other techniques to help the patient cope with the condition. Some patients find that the syndrome is frightening and stressful because it affects the nervous system; counseling is thus sometimes needed. Physiotherapy is also useful because it can help to reduce muscle problems and pain. During physiotherapy, the practitioner may utilize techniques such as massage and electrotherapy along with recommending an exercise program for the patient to perform at home.

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Discussion Comments
By tonyhollis — On Jul 06, 2011

I suffered with GBS in 1999. My decline was slower than normal and it took 12 days from my first fall to admittance. I was treated with IVIG and sent off to rehab. Unfortunately, there was no follow up, and the staff at rehab were not aware that my continued decline meant that the IVIG had not worked. They thought I was not trying hard enough! In mitigation, most of them had only seen one patient with GBS. At the nadir my weight had gone from12 stone to 8 stone and to my fevered mind I was on my way out.

After about eight weeks in rehab, I was eventually sent back to Atkinson Morley's and to Guys (Prof Richard Hughes) and put on a massive programme of blood plasma exchange (65 bottles of treatments). Although late, it did work, and within days, the first twitches were discernible.

I can walk after a fashion (rather in the manner of a cross between Richard III and Groucho Marx), and although disabled am very happy. My experience with GBS was that there was a lot of ignorance around, but that was not surprising given the bizarre nature of the illness.

I have written around 60,000 words on my nightmare experience, at first to help my fingers but later to try to get the bad memories out of my system. I called it The Wheelbarrow Syndrome - one of my fellow patients told her mother that she thought I had something called Wheelbarrow! Which just about sums it up for me.

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