Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare auto-immune disorder in which the body’s own immune system decides to attack the peripheral nervous system, leading to sudden motor and sensory deficits in varying degrees to aspects of the body. This condition may result in minor motor and sensory deficits through to complete paralysis in severe cases. If the deficits encompass the muscles involved in respiration Guillain-Barre Syndrome may be fatal.
The specific cause of Gullain-Barre Syndrome is unknown, however, it is known that a person who is suffering with Gullain-Barre Syndrome will have both antibodies and lymphocytes attacking the peripheral nerves for no apparent reason. It has been associated with persons who have had a bacterial or viral infection recently.
Gullain-Barre Syndrome was first identified by the French Neurologist Gullain Barre in 1916, when two soldiers were found to have decreased motor and sensory responses, in the absence of spinal damage or significant trauma.
What is the treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
There is no specific cure for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, however management looks at treating the symptoms of the disorder so that the body has time to repair itself. The majority of patients diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome will survive and return to some level of normality within 3 months. Management should include: monitoring and managing the basic functions of life, such as: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Intubation/Tracheostomy may be required if the disease has affected the muscles of respiration. Plasmapheresis and IV Human Immunoglobin transfusions have been associated with better outcomes.
As a paramedic, you will most likely see patients who have Gullain-Barre Syndrome, but have not yet been diagnosed. The most likely symptoms will include motor and sensory deficit in the absense of spinal trauma. These patients will often appear pedantic about their positioning and continuously uncomfortable. This is because Gullain-Barre Syndrome often affects just the motor response and not necessarily the sensory response, so, unlike a patient who has a spinal injury and can’t feel anything below the injury site, Guillain-Barre Syndrome patient’s may not be able to move, but will continue to experience the pain and discomfort of a limb that is not moving.