Journal of Neurology

, 254:1318

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Determination of pain and response to methylprednisolone in Guillain-Barré syndrome

  • Liselotte RutsAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, Erasmus MC, Room number Ee-2230 Email author 
  • , Rinske van KoningsveldAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, Erasmus MC
  • , Bart C. JacobsAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, Erasmus MC
  • , Pieter A. van DoornAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, Erasmus MC


Pain can be a serious problem in patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Different pain symptoms and the effect of methylprednisolone on pain are evaluated.


GBS patients were recruited from a randomized placebo-controlled study comparing intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) + methylprednisolone (500 mg for 5 days) versus IVIg + placebo. Presence and severity of pain were prospectively scored at randomization and after 4 weeks. Efficacy of methylprednisolone was evaluated using endpoints: percentage of patients with pain and percentage of patients improving in pain-severity level. Medical records of the subgroup of patients treated in the Erasmus MC were screened retrospectively for different pain symptoms and course. Pain was scored at different time intervals: within 4 weeks before randomization and 0–2, 2–4, 4–24, 24–52 weeks after randomization.


123 (55%) of 223 patients had pain at randomization. In 70%, pain already started before onset of weakness. Methylprednisolone did not show a positive effect on the presence and reduction of pain. In the subgroup of 39 patients, backache (33%), interscapular (28%), muscle (24%), radicular pain (18%) and painful par-/dysaesthesiae (18%) were most frequently present within the period of 4 weeks before randomization. Twenty-six percent had extreme pain 0–2 weeks after randomization. Most symptoms of pain decreased after this period, but painful par-/dysaesthesiae and muscle pain often remained present during at least 6 months.


Pain frequently occurs, often starts before onset of weakness and may cause severe complaints. Especially painful par-/dysaesthesiae and muscle pain may persist for months. Methylprednisolone seems to have no significant effect on the presence and intensity of pain.

Key words

Guillain-Barré syndrome pain symptoms, course methylprednisolone