Objective: To determine the optimal treatment for childhood Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
Methods: We performed a randomized, multicenter study of GBS according to international diagnostic criteria. In study 1 (early treatment), children able to walk unaided for 5 meters were randomized for 1 g/kg intravenously administered immunoglobulin (IVIG) over 2 days or no treatment. The primary outcome measure was the degree of disability at nadir. In study 2 (treatment for severe GBS), children unable to walk 5 meters unaided were randomized for 1 g/kg IVIG over 2 days or 0.4 g/kg IVIG over 5 days. The primary outcome measure was the number of days needed to regain the ability to walk unaided. Children randomized for no treatment in study 1 could enter study 2 if loss of unaided walking occurred.
Results: Ninety-five children with GBS were registered in 40 months. Twenty-one children were randomized in study 1 and 51 in study 2 (5 after deterioration in study 1). Twenty-eight children were not randomized for various reasons. Eleven of 21 patients in study 1 lost the ability to walk unassisted and 6 were bedridden, with no statistically significant difference between the children initially randomized for treatment versus no treatment. Recovery occurred faster in the group randomized for early treatment. In study 2, recovery did not differ significantly between the children treated for 2 days versus 5 days (median time to unaided walking: 19 days vs 13 days). Secondary transient deterioration in the disability score occurred more frequently in the group with the 2-day regimen than in the group treated for 5 days (5 of 23 patients vs 0 of 23 patients). Multivariate analysis with Cox regression showed that disease severity at the nadir was the only prognostic factor for recovery.
Conclusions: Treatment with IVIG before loss of unaided walking did not give rise to a less severe course, but recovery occurred somewhat faster. However, given the small number of patients, the power of this conclusion is low. For treatment after loss of unaided walking, there was no significant difference in the effectiveness of 2 g/kg IVIG administered over 2 days versus 5 days. Early "relapses" occurred more frequently after the shorter treatment regimen.