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How is GBS treated?

GBS treatment takes a variegated approach

GBS in its early stages is unpredictable, so except in very mild cases, most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized. Usually, a new case of GBS is admitted to ICU (Intensive Care) to monitor breathing and other body functions until the disease is stabilized. Plasma exchange (a blood “cleansing” procedure) and high dose intravenous immune globulins are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS. The acute phase of GBS typically varies in length from a few days to months, with over 90% of patients moving into the rehabilitative phase within four weeks. Patient care involves the coordinated efforts of a team such as a neurologist, physiatrist (rehabilitation physician), internist, family physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, and psychologist or psychiatrist. Some patients require speech therapy if speech muscles have been affected.

Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. The initial symptoms are typically changes in sensation or pain along with muscle weakness, beginning in the feet and hands. This often spreads to the arms and upper body with both sides being involved. The symptoms develop over hours to a few weeks. During the acute phase, the disorder can be life-threatening with about 15% developing weakness of the breathing muscles requiring mechanical ventilation.[1] Some are affected by changes in the function of the autonomic nervous system, which can lead to dangerous abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure.

In those with severe weakness, prompt treatment with intravenous immunoglobulins or plasmapheresis, together with supportive care, will lead to good recovery in the majority. Recovery may take weeks to years. About a third have some permanent weakness. Globally death occurs in about 7.5% of those affected.[Guillain–Barré syndrome is rare, at one or two cases per 100,000 people every year. Both sexes and all parts of the world have similar rates of disease.The syndrome is named after the French neurologists Georges Guillain and Jean Alexandre Barré, who described it with André Strohl in 1916.

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