Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition where your body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves (the nerves connecting the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body). While symptoms can progress rapidly, leading to life-threatening circumstances, many patients who seek treatment experience a full recovery.

At Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, our expert neuromuscular specialists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating Guillain-Barré syndrome. Our comprehensive diagnosis and effective treatments offer the best chance of a full recovery.

Guillain-Barré syndrome symptoms

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome range from mild to severe. Because severe symptoms can be a medical emergency, call your physician immediately if you suspect you have Guillain Barré syndrome.

Common symptoms include:

  • Weakness or tingling sensations in the legs
  • Weakness that spreads to the arms and upper body
  • Problems walking or balancing
  • Problems breathing
  • Rapid or abnormal heart rate

Diagnosing Guillain Barré syndrome

We will perform a complete neurological examination and discuss your symptoms. Because symptoms of Guillain-Barré can mimic those of other nervous system problems, we may order one or more of these tests:

  • Electromyogram (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity of muscles.
  • Nerve conduction studies: A nerve conduction velocity test measures the nerves’ ability to send electrical signals. We often perform it along with an EMG to help determine whether symptoms are related to your nerves or muscles.
  • Lumbar puncture: This test, also called a spinal tap, evaluates the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. We insert a needle into your lumbar area (small of your back) to remove the fluid.

Get expert treatment at AHN

While there is no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome, our neuromuscular experts are skilled in diagnosing this condition early, when it is easier to treat. We provide therapies that lessen symptom severity and help speed recovery. We are also experienced in treating complications from the disease.

Treatment options include:

  • Plasmapheresis: This therapy, also called plasma exchange, filters your blood through a machine that removes harmful antibodies (similar to dialysis).
  • Immunoglobulin therapy: You receive an injection of high doses of good antibodies from healthy donor blood. These new antibodies help block the antibodies that may be attacking your nervous system.
  • Intensive monitoring: In serious cases, patients may need to be hospitalized, where we can closely monitor their care. Rarely, a patient may require breathing assistance via a mechanical ventilator or other machines that help your body function until it recovers.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-8850.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.