Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) and its variant, Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) have several subtypes, together forming a continuous spectrum of discrete and overlapping syndromes. Such is the heterogeneity within this spectrum that many physicians may be surprised to learn that these disorders are related pathophysiologically, and therefore share certain clinical features. These include history of antecedent infection, monophasic disease course and symmetrical cranial or limb weakness. The presence of cerebrospinal fluid albuminocytological dissociation (raised protein, normal cell count), antiganglioside antibodies and neurophysiological evidence of axonal or demyelinating neuropathy also support a diagnosis in many cases, but should not be relied upon. Mimics of GBS and MFS can broadly be divided into those presenting with symmetrical limb weakness and those presenting with brainstem signs. MFS and the pharyngeal-cervical-brachial variant of GBS are frequently mistaken for brainstem stroke, botulism or myasthenia gravis, whereas Bickerstaff's brainstem encephalitis is often diagnosed as Wernicke's encephalopathy. Chameleons or atypical presentations of GBS-related disorders include: paraparetic GBS, bifacial weakness with paraesthesias, acute ataxic neuropathy, acute ophthalmoparesis, acute ptosis and acute mydriasis. Many neurologists may also not be aware that deep tendon reflexes remain present or may even appear brisk in up to 10% of patients with GBS. Correct diagnosis of GBS-related disorders helps to avoid unnecessary investigations and allows early immunotherapy if appropriate.
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