Areflexia or hyporeflexia is a mandatory clinical criterion for the diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). A systematic review of the literature from 1 January 1993 to 30 August 2019 revealed 44 sufficiently detailed patients with GBS and hyper-reflexia, along with one we describe. 73.3% of patients were from Japan, 6.7% from the USA, 6.7% from India, 4.4% from Italy, 4.4% from Turkey, 2.2% from Switzerland and 2.2% from Slovenia, suggesting a considerable geographical variation. Hyper-reflexia was more frequently associated with antecedent diarrhoea (56%) than upper respiratory tract infection (22.2%) and the electrodiagnosis of acute motor axonal neuropathy (56%) than acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (4.4%). Antiganglioside antibodies were positive in 89.7% of patients. Hyper-reflexia was generalised in 90.7% of patients and associated with reflex spread in half; it was present from the early progressive phase in 86.7% and disappeared in a few weeks or persisted until 18 months. Ankle clonus or Babinski signs were rarely reported (6.7%); spasticity never developed. 53.3% of patients could walk unaided at nadir, none needed mechanical ventilation or died. 92.9% of patients with limb weakness were able to walk unaided within 6 months. Electrophysiological studies showed high soleus maximal H-reflex amplitude to maximal compound muscle action potential amplitude ratio, suggestive of spinal motoneuron hyperexcitability, and increased central conduction time, suggestive of corticospinal tract involvement, although a structural damage was never demonstrated by MRI. Hyper-reflexia is not inconsistent with the GBS diagnosis and should not delay treatment. All GBS variants and subtypes can present with hyper-reflexia, and this eventuality should be mentioned in future diagnostic criteria for GBS.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- anti-ganglioside antibodies
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Contributors AU conceived the review, searched the literature and wrote the first draft. FN followed up the reported patient and searched the literature. SK contributed with the electrophysiological figure and the video. All authors critically revised all the versions of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.