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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD002063.

Intravenous immunoglobulin for Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, Hodgkin Building, Guy's Hospital, London, UK, SE1 1UL.

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Guillain-Barré syndrome is an acute, paralysing, inflammatory peripheral nerve disease. Intravenous immunoglobulin purified from donated blood is beneficial in other autoimmune diseases.


We aimed to determine the efficacy of intravenous immunoglobulin for treating Guillain-Barré syndrome.


We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group register (search updated 11 February 2003), MEDLINE and EMBASE (from January 2000 to February 2003) using Guillain-Barré syndrome and acute polyradiculoneuritis as the search terms. We also searched bibliographies of trials and made contact with their authors and other experts.


We included all randomised and quasi-randomised trials.


Two reviewers examined the titles and abstracts of all the papers retrieved by the search, extracted the data and assessed the quality of the trials independently.


Two trials comparing intravenous immunoglobulin with supportive treatment were inadequate to establish its value. Another Cochrane systematic review has shown that plasma exchange hastens recovery. We found six randomised trials that compared intravenous immunoglobulin with plasma exchange. In a meta-analysis of five trials involving 536, mostly adult, participants who were unable to walk unaided and had been ill for less than two weeks. The primary outcome measure in this review was the change in a seven grade disability scale four weeks after randomisation. The weighted mean difference of this measure was not statistically significant, being only 0.04 (95% CI -0.26 to 0.19) of a disability grade more improvement in the intravenous immunoglobulin group than the plasma exchange group. There were also no statistically significant differences in time to walk unaided, mortality, and proportion of participants unable to walk without aid after a year. One trial involving 249 participants compared plasma exchange followed by intravenous immunoglobulin with plasma exchange alone, and another involving 37 participants compared immunoabsorption followed by intravenous immunoglobulin with immunoabsorption alone. Neither revealed significant extra benefit from intravenous immunoglobulin. One study of only 39 participants showed a trend towards more improvement with high-dose compared with low-dose intravenous immunoglobulin.


Although there are no adequate comparisons with placebo, intravenous immunoglobulin hastens recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome as much as plasma exchange. Giving intravenous immunoglobulin after plasma exchange is not significantly better than plasma exchange alone. Randomised trials are needed to decide the effect of intravenous immunoglobulin in children, in adults with mild disease and in adults who start treatment after more than two weeks.

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