Guillain-Barré Syndrome | Testing and Diagnosis

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How is Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnosed?

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 his or her medical history, and ask about specific symptoms.

The key to managing Guillain-Barré syndrome is to diagnose it early so your child can get proper care.

What tests will my child need?

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

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): For this test, a special needle is placed into your child’s spinal canal (the area around the spinal cord) in the lower back, and a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is removed. 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 often than lumbar puncture and EMG in diagnosing Guillain-Barré. However, if it’s not possible to do one of the first two tests, doctors make take an MRI of your child’s spine.

These tests are usually done without sedation or anesthesia. In some cases, anesthesia may be needed.

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