The morbidity and outcome of patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome admitted to the intensive care unit

Rajat Dhar, Larry Stitt, Angelika F. Hahn

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One third of patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) require admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), associated with significant risk of morbidity, mortality, and incomplete recovery. Methods: 76 adult patients with GBS admitted to the ICU at a regional referral center over a 20-year period were studied. We determined the frequency, nature, and predictors of complications they experienced while in the ICU; this morbidity was related to long-term functional recovery and time to regain independent ambulation, extracted from longitudinal follow-up data. Results: ICU stay was a median 21 days and mechanical ventilation (MV) was required in 78% (median duration 28 days). Two-thirds suffered at least one major complication, most commonly pneumonia (54%). Morbidity was strongly associated with MV and male sex. Mortality occurred in only 5 patients (6.5%). Over an average 3 years follow-up, recovery of independent ambulation was seen in 75%, with advanced age being the most powerful predictor of poor outcome. Prolonged MV and severe axonal loss did not preclude a favorable recovery. Time to ambulate was a median 198 days, although recovery could occur as late as ten years after onset; slower recovery was associated with ICU complications, prolonged MV, and early axonal abnormalities. Conclusion: Although patients with GBS suffer significant morbidity during protracted ICU stays, with meticulous supportive care, many make gratifying functional recoveries. In severely afflicted patients, this may only be appreciated after extended follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-128
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2008


  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • Intensive care units
  • Recovery of function


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