Research Article| Volume 20, ISSUE 1, P53-61, February 1999

Treatment of the adult Guillain–Barré syndrome: indications for plasma exchange


      The Guillain–Barré syndrome is the most common cause of acute flaccid paralysis. Currently, 5% of patients die and 10% are left with severe motor sequelae at one year. Multidisciplinary teams, trained to specific treatments, are required to manage these patients. Oral and intravenous steroid treatment of GBS has been disappointing. Two large randomized clinical trials comparing plasma exchange (PE) to standard supportive treatment have shown a short-term and a one-year benefit of PE. Appropriate number of exchanges and indications of PE are now more precisely known. Patients with mild forms of the disease (able to walk) should receive two PEs, while a further two exchanges should be done in case of deterioration or in advanced forms (loss of walking ability, mechanical ventilation). A greater number of exchanges does not appeared beneficial. More recently, two randomized trials produced some evidence that intravenous immune globulin (IVIg, 0.4 g/kg daily for five days) and PE had equivalent efficiency in advanced forms. The combination of PE with IVIg did not yield a significant advantage, but did increase cost and risk. In advanced forms, the choice between PE and IVIg depends on the contraindications of each treatment.


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