Testing & Diagnosis for Guillain Barre Syndrome in Children

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The key to managing Guillain-Barré syndrome is to diagnose it early so that your child can get the care she needs.

Guillain-Barré is diagnosed based on your child’s symptoms and the results of some specific tests. A pediatrician or pediatric neurologist will examine your child, review her medical history and talk with you and your child about her symptoms.

There are three tests that the doctor may use to help diagnose Guillain-Barré:

  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap): A special needle is placed into your child’s spinal canal (the area around the spinal cord) in her lower back, and a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is removed. (CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.) Doctors test the fluid sample for signs of inflammation.
  • electromyography and nerve conduction studies (EMG testing): These tests measure the electrical activity of nerves and muscles.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test may be used to get a picture of your child’s spine. It’s used less frequently than lumbar puncture and EMG in diagnosing Guillain-Barré. However, if for some reason it’s not possible to do one of the first two tests, doctors make take an MRI of your child’s spine.

We work to get the most accurate information we can so that we can diagnose your child’s condition accurately and get her the treatment she needs. At the same time, we never forget that your child is a child, and not just a patient. The technologists and physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital who perform these tests specialize in working with children; they’ll talk with you, explain the test to your child and make her as comfortable as possible.

These tests are usually done without sedation or anesthesia. Sometimes, however, anesthesia may be needed. In all cases, we’ll work closely with you and carefully consider what’s best for your child.

Diagnostic labs that are just for kids

Our patients are able to get the tests they need at labs that are designed just for children and adolescents. In particular, Boston Children’s houses a full-service electromyography (EMG) laboratory that is entirely dedicated to pediatric testing. Tests like these can often seem scary to children, but with compassionate doctors and technologists who are experienced in working with kids, it’s usually not so bad.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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