What's the treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a very serious disease that requires immediate hospitalization. It requires immedate hospitalization because it can worsen rapidly. Most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized and usually placed in an intensive care unit to monitor breathing and other body functions. The goal of the treatment plan is to lessen the severity of the illness and to assist in the recovery. There are also a number of ways to treat the complications of the disease.
Currently, plasmapheresis and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy are used.
Plasmapheresis is a process in which blood is removed from the patient, then separated into plasma (the liquid portion of blood) and blood cells. The blood cells are then returned to the patient without the plasma, which the body quickly replaces. Scientists still don't know exactly why plasmapheresis works, but the technique seems to reduce the severity and duration of the Guillain-Barrè episode. This may be because the plasma portion of the blood contains elements of the immune system that may be toxic to the myelin.
In high-dose immunoglobulin therapy, doctors give intravenous injections of the proteins that in small quantities, the immune system uses naturally to attack invading organism. Investigators have found that giving high doses of these immunoglobulins, derived from a pool of thousands of normal donors, to Guillain-Barré patients can lessen the immune attack on the nervous system. This can sometimes require placing the patient on a respirator, a heart monitor, or other machines that assist body function. The need for this sophisticated machinery is one reason why Guillain-Barrè syndrome patients are usually treated in hospitals, often in an intensive care ward. In the hospital, doctors can also look for and treat the many problems that can afflict any paralyzed patient – complications such as pneumonia or bed sores.
After recovery has begun, patients likely will need physical therapy to help them regain strength and proper movement.