Topic Overview

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare
nerve disorder that occurs when the body’s own defenses (immune system) attack
part of the nervous system. For this reason, you may be treated with
immunotherapy, which is designed to alter or combat the abnormal immune
response by removing the antibodies that are attacking your body.

Two types of immunotherapy may be used to treat Guillain-Barré syndrome:

  • Plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis, is a procedure in
    which the liquid portion (plasma) of your blood is separated from
    the red and white blood cells and replaced with a saltwater (saline) and
    albumin (protein) solution. It removes antibodies and other
    potentially harmful factors from the bloodstream. Plasma exchange requires
    access to large veins, which may not be possible in some people, and it may be
    risky in older people or in some people who have heart disease.
  • Intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) is a medicine often
    used to boost the body’s
    immune system and make it better able to fight
    disease. Immune globulins (also called gamma globulins) are proteins in human
    blood. These proteins are antibodies, which help the body’s immune system
    recognize and destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses. Because
    immune globulin is made from donated blood fluids, it is sometimes in short
    supply and may not be available everywhere.

One of these treatments is often started immediately after
you have been diagnosed if you seem to be getting worse. Early treatment may
reduce your recovery time.

Plasma exchange and IVIG appear to be
equally effective when given early in the course of the disease. They also have
similar costs. The choice between one or the other treatment may depend on what
is available and most practical.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC – Neurology

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017