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      Surgery and Guillain-Barré Syndrome: A Single-Center Retrospective Study Focused on Clinical and Electrophysiological Subtypes

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          Surgery-related Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is often underestimated and sometimes difficult to diagnose. This study aimed to elucidate the clinical features and electrophysiological subtypes of post-surgical GBS.


          We retrospectively reviewed 17 patients who developed post-surgical GBS after a recent surgery between 2015 and 2019. Clinical characteristics, electrophysiological examinations, lumbar puncture results and prognosis were assessed. As controls, we selected 66 patients hospitalized with non-surgical GBS.


          The median duration from the surgery to the onset of GBS symptoms was 16.0 days. The main types of surgeries preceding GBS were orthopedic, gastrointestinal and neurosurgery. Symmetrical distal limbs weakness was present in all 17 post-surgical GBS patients. The incidence of respiratory failure, autonomic dysfunction and muscle atrophy in post-surgical GBS patients was significantly higher than that in non-surgical GBS patients. Hughes Functional Grading Scale (HFGS) scores were also higher in the post-surgical GBS group both at the time of peak disease and 6 months after discharge. Electrophysiological studies revealed significant motor amplitudes reduction with relative preserved nerve conduction velocities and distal latencies, suggesting axonal subtypes of GBS.


          GBS should be considered in patients with rapidly progressive muscle weakness after surgery. Such patients often exhibit axonal subtypes of GBS with severe motor dysfunction, high risk of respiratory failure, and poor prognosis.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Guillain-Barré syndrome and variants.

          Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is characterized by rapidly evolving ascending weakness, mild sensory loss, and hyporeflexia or areflexia. Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy was the first to be recognized over a century ago and is the most common form of GBS. Axonal motor and sensorimotor variants have been described in the last three decades and are mediated by molecular mimicry targeting peripheral nerve motor axons. Other rare phenotypic variants have been recently described with pure sensory variant, restricted autonomic manifestations, and the pharyngeal-cervical-brachial pattern. It is important to recognize GBS and its variants because of the availability of equally effective therapies in the form of plasmapheresis and intravenous immunoglobulins.
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            Increased incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome after surgery.

            Antecedent surgery has been described to trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), but its evidence is poor and based on case reports only.
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              The incidence and triggers of adult-onset Guillain-Barré syndrome in southwestern Finland 2004-2013.

              A Swiss study recently reported surgery as a potential risk factor for developing Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). It was sought to establish this in the Finnish adult population.

                Author and article information

                Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat
                Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat
                Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
                15 April 2020
                : 16
                : 969-974
                [1 ]Department of Neurology, The Affiliated Hospital of Xuzhou Medical University , Xuzhou, Jiangsu 221004, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Lei Bao Department of Neurology, The Affiliated Hospital of Xuzhou Medical University , Xuzhou, Jiangsu221004, People’s Republic of China Tel/Fax +86 516 85802129 Email

                These authors contributed equally to this work

                © 2020 Bao et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms (

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 3, References: 25, Pages: 6
                This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) NO. 81771282 and The Natural Science Foundation of the Jiangsu Province (Grant No: BK20180991).
                Original Research


                axonal neuropathy, guillain-barre syndrome, electrophysiology, surgery, post-surgical gbs


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