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Locked-in Guillain-Barré syndrome: ‘my living nightmare’
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  • Published on:
    Pain in locked-in Guillain-Barré syndrome: pathophysiological and therapeutic thoughts
    • JOSÉ BERCIANO, Professor emeritus ad honorem University of Cantabria, University Hospital “Marqués de Valdecilla (IDIVAL)”, and CIBERNED, Santander, Spain

    I read with great interest the excellent paper by Kumta and colleagues1 and the accompanying editorial2 concerning a patient with severe Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) requiring mechanical ventilation, who provided his experiences during the 31-day period of locked-in syndrome. I wish to open up some insights on the reported pain.
    Physical therapy, in particular the passive stretching of calf and masseter muscles, provoked him intense pain, the patient’s description being very impressive: “It felt like they were trying to tear the muscles off the bone … I’ve never known pain like it” 1. Pain due to peripheral nerve damage is basically divided into two major types: dysesthetic pain and nerve trunk pain, the distinction between them being based upon clinical observation and experience3. Reported aching characteristics in the current patient (excruciating, deep, and provoked by nerve stretch) points to nerve trunk pain.
    Pain is an integral manifestation of GBS. In a series of 55 consecutive GBS patients, Moulin and colleagues analysed pain features4, which could be summarised as follows: i/ 49 (89%) patients described pain during the course of their illness; ii/ in around half of them, it was described as excruciating; and iii/ pain preceded weakness by a mean of 5.3 days in 14, and both symptoms appeared simultaneously in seven. Furthermore, in “pure” motor GBS syndromes, usually classified as acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN), nerve trunk pain may occur in a h...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.

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