How Is Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treated?

While there is no known cure for Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), certain therapies can lessen the severity of the illness and expedite recovery. Plasma exchange (also called plasmapheresis, in which whole blood is removed from the body and processed to remove the plasma, followed by reintroduction of the red and white blood cells into the body) and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy are used to reduce the severity and duration of the GBS episode.

The most critical part of treatment for GBS involves keeping the patient’s body functioning during recovery of the nervous system. This can require placing the patient on mechanical ventilatory assistance, a heart monitor or other machines to aid bodily functions. Physical, occupational and speech therapies play an important role, both before and after recovery begins.

What Rehabilitation Services Are Available for Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

TIRR Memorial Hermann offers specialized rehabilitation to treat GBS, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including:

  • Comprehensive management of rehabilitation needs by a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor
  • Evidence-based interventions to help patients gradually rebuild neuromuscular control
  • Patient and family training with adaptive devices, such as a wheelchair or braces; including portable ventilator that can attach to an electric wheelchairs, if needed
  • Speech therapy for patients who have trouble swallowing or talking
  • Psychological assessment and treatment for coping skills and to manage depression or anxiety
  • Recreational therapy and vocational counseling to help transition back to home and school or work

What Are the Benefits of Rehabilitation for Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation services help GBS patients to:

  • Gradually rebuild neuromuscular control
  • Overcome difficulties with swallowing or speaking
  • Minimize pain
  • Develop coping skills
  • Manage depression or anxiety
  • Transition back to home, school or work

What Is the Long-Term Prognosis for Patients With Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Most patients with GBS make a full recovery, although recovery can take weeks, months or even years. About a third of these patients still suffer residual weakness after three years, and a small percentage (about 3%) may suffer a relapse of muscle weakness and tingling years after the initial attack.

Patient Stories

  • TIRR Memorial Hermann patient, Kelli Bixler, smiles in the shade on a sunny day.

    Kelli Bixler: Celebrating Life

    March 7, 2023

    Surrounded by family and friends in October 2022, Kelli Bixler was thrilled to be hosting an event to celebrate her life. She was able to chat, eat some of her favorite foods and walk around to spend time with her loved ones. Just a year prior, she was unable to perform any of those activities du...

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  • TIRR Memorial Hermann patient, Joleigh Babineaux, smiles for the camera.

    Joleigh's Story: Regaining Mobility after Guillain-Barré

    April 22, 2022

    One-year-old Joleigh Babineaux went from running around and playing with her sister to being lethargic and no longer walking independently within a few short weeks. A diagnosis of Guillain-Barré led to customized treatment at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

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  • Oscar Rangel

    Oscar Rangel: Guillain-Barré Therapy

    August 6, 2013

    Leaving work one day, Oscar noticed his vision was strained in one eye. Over the next few days, Oscar lost vision in one eye and the ability to swallow and stand. He was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré, a rare nervous system disorder that results from nerve damage ...

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For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.

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