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Guillain-barre Syndrome


Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a disorder that results in inflammation and damage to the nerves in your body. This may cause mild symptoms such a muscle weakness, or more serious symptoms, such as paralysis.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Intake and output

may be measured. Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

A Foley catheter

is a tube put into your bladder to drain urine into a bag. Keep the bag below your waist. This will prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection or other problems. Also, keep the tube free of kinks so the urine will drain properly. Do not pull on the catheter. This can cause pain and bleeding, and may cause the catheter to come out.


Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to get out of bed. Have a healthcare provider help you the first time you get out of bed. If you feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away. Once you are strong enough, you may begin leg exercises in bed. Move your legs, ankles, and feet as directed while you are in bed. This may help to prevent blood clots.


  • Immune globulins: This medicine can help decrease your symptoms by decreasing damage to your nerves.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is used to treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Blood thinners may be given before, during, and after a surgery or procedure. Blood thinners make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise.
  • Heart medicine: This medicine may be given to help your heart beat more regularly.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for this medicine.
  • Stool softeners: This medicine may help soften your bowel movements, decrease straining, and prevent constipation.
  • Sedatives: This is used to help decrease anxiety and may help you sleep at night.


The results of these tests help healthcare providers plan the best way to treat you.

  • Blood and urine tests: A sample of your blood or urine may be sent to a lab to help find the cause of your symptoms. They may also be used to make sure organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are working correctly.
  • Chest x-ray: Healthcare providers may use this to check your heart and lungs.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure is also called a spinal tap. Healthcare providers will give you medicine to numb a small area of your lower back. They will insert a needle and remove fluid from around your spinal cord. The fluid will be sent to a lab to be tested for cause of your symptoms.
  • An electromyography (EMG) test measures the electrical activity of your muscles at rest and with movement.
  • Nerve conduction studies: This test measures how your nerves respond to stimulation. Electrodes (wires) are placed on affected areas of your body. They send electrical currents into the nerve to see how quickly it responds.
  • Neurologic exam: This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • Pulmonary function tests: Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) help caregivers learn how well your body uses oxygen. You breathe into a mouthpiece connected to a machine. The machine measures how much air you breathe in and out over a certain amount of time. PFTs help your caregivers decide the best treatment for you.


Treatment depends on the type and severity of your symptoms:

  • Plasmapheresis: This procedure removes antibodies from your blood. Some of your blood will be removed through an IV. The blood is then put in a machine that spins and separates the red blood cells from the antibodies. The cleaned blood is then put back in your body through the IV.
  • Plasma exchange: This is a procedure that removes part of the blood, called plasma, and replaces it with other fluids.
  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • Breathing treatments: You may need breathing treatments to help open your airways so you can breathe easier. A machine is used to change liquid medicine into a mist. You will breathe the mist into your lungs through tubing and a mouthpiece. Inhaled mist medicines act quickly on your airways and lungs to relieve your symptoms.
  • Postural drainage (PD): This treatment uses body position and gravity to help bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs. Your caregiver will place you in different positions to help the sputum drain to larger air passages. Then you can cough it out more easily. During postural drainage, your caregiver may also lightly clap on your back and chest with their hands, or use a small machine that vibrates on your skin. This breaks up the sputum in your lungs, making it easier to cough up. Postural drainage may make it easier for you to breathe, decrease the chance of infection, and help you get better faster.
  • Ventilator: This is a machine is used to help you breathe.

Additional treatments:

  • Eating and swallowing: If you have problems with eating or swallowing, a healthcare provider may help teach you about which foods and liquids are safe to eat and drink. You may be given thickened liquids to help you swallow liquids. You may also be fed by an IV or nasogastric (NG) tube. An NG tube is placed through your nose and goes down to your stomach. The tube may also go directly from the outside of your body into your stomach, called a gastrostomy tube.
  • Pressure stockings: These are long, tight stockings that put pressure on your legs to promote blood flow and prevent clots.
  • Physical and occupational therapy: A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.


GBS may lead to breathing problems and choking. You may have other health problems because GBS may increase your risk for blood clots. Even after treatment, you may have mild weakness. Without treatment, GBS may be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.