Background: Despite available treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), morbidity and mortality are considerable in patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Our aim was to assess whether methylprednisolone, when taken with IVIg, improves outcome when compared with IVIg alone.
Methods: We did a double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre, randomised study, to which we enrolled patients who were unable to walk independently and who had been treated within 14 days after onset of weakness with IVIg (0.4 g/kg bodyweight per day) for 5 days. We assigned 233 individuals to receive either intravenous methylprednisolone (500 mg per day; n=116) or placebo (n=117) for 5 days within 48 h of administration of first dose of IVIg. Because age is an important prognostic factor, we split treatment groups into two age-groups-ie, younger than age 50 years, or 50 years and older. Our primary outcome was an improvement from baseline in GBS disability score of one or more grades 4 weeks after randomisation. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: We analysed 225 patients. GBS disability scores increased by one grade or more in 68% (76 of 112) of patients in the methylprednisolone group and in 56% (63 of 113) of controls (odds ratio [OR] 1.68, 95% CI 0.97-2.88; p=0.06). After adjustment for age and degree of disability at entry, treatment OR was 1.89 (95% CI 1.07-3.35; p=0.03). Side-effects did not differ greatly between groups.
Interpretation: We noted no significant difference between treatment with methylprednisolone and IVIg and IVIg alone. Because of the relevance of prognostic factors and the limited side-effects of methylprednisolone, the potential importance of combination treatment with the drug and IVIg, however, warrants further investigation.