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Keywords:

  • central nervous system;
  • cerebrospinal fluid;
  • Guillain–Barré syndrome;
  • neuropathology;
  • peripheral nervous system

In cases with otherwise clinically typical Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), pronounced cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis or the mere presence of CSF-polymorphonuclear granulocytes should alert the physician to consider alternative diagnoses. Therefore, we retrospectively studied the neuropathology of central and peripheral nervous system in two cases with a CSF cell count of more than 50/μl and in three cases with a significant proportion of polymorphonuclear granulocytes in the CSF sediment. All cases fulfilled the required criteria for the diagnosis of GBS, the duration from onset to death ranged from 4 to 100 days. Neuropathological investigations included routine staining procedures and immunohistochemistry for antigens of glial and haematopoetic cells as well as for products of relevant neurotropic viruses. Demyelinating polyradiculitis was present in four cases, in one patient with a survival time of 4 days the type of damage to myelinated fibres was unclassifiable. In the central nervous system a consistent finding was diffuse activation of microglia, only one case showed mild meningeal and lower brainstem inflammation. Viral products were generally absent. In summary, the neuropathological findings confirm that marked CSF pleocytosis or the presence of polymorphonuclear granulocytes does not rule out the diagnosis of GBS.