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We read with interest the study presented by Berg et al  that showed that prolonged mechanical ventilation (more than 2 months) in Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) was associated with poorer outcome and more residual deficits compared to non-ventilated GBS patients.
We recently found very similar results in the same population of patients. Nevertheless, it should be precised that despite this, we could not found any difference in quality of life compared to the general French population . Berg et al. also found that ventilated patients were less likely to have residual fatigue symptoms compared to non-ventilated GBS patients, respectively 20% versus 54% (p=0.007). Among 13 prolonged mechanically ventilated GBS, we could show that 22% of patients displayed DSM IV criteria for long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . Since one of our main hypothesis was that PTSD symptoms were mainly related to the mechanical ventilation, we assessed long-term PTSD in 20 non-ventilated GBS patients (Table). Unexpectedly, 65% of these non-ventilated patients had PTSD as compared to 22% in the ventilated group found in our previous study (Table). As for fatigue, we would have expected a correlation between the severity of the disease (especially mechanical ventilation), and the incidence of PTSD.
One explanation of these unexpected results could be that the acute stress induced by the temporary paralysis, the traumatic aspects of intubation an...
One explanation of these unexpected results could be that the acute stress induced by the temporary paralysis, the traumatic aspects of intubation and the need for prolonged mechanical ventilation (MV) could promote a stronger resilience process, a mental ability which enables adaption to a stressful event , in severe GBS patients compared to milder ones. Nevertheless, to our knowledge, no study has shown that the length of stay or the severity of a traumatic event could be associated to higher resilience. In our studies, median length of stay (LOS) was longer in ventilated versus non-ventilated GBS patient, respectively at 102 days [72-126] and 12 days [11-16) (p<0.0001). In the contrary of most ICU patients, GBS patients with prolonged MV are admitted for a transitory impairment of the peripheral nervous system responsible of respiratory failure, without multiple organ dysfunctions. During their LOS, they are, with full consciousness, hostages to their paralyzed bodies, before the recovering. We can make the hypothesis that this uncommon stressful experience could promote in some patients a resilience process in order to deal transiently with they’re inexorable status, with the hypothesis that higher LOS could promote this resilience process. Such changes in mental status have been described in war prisoners and hostages with prolonged captivity [4, 5].
We totally agree with the authors that based on the actual available studies the prediction of which patients with prolonged mechanical ventilation may reach good outcome is impossible and that prospective studies are mandatory. In such studies, detailed psychological and psychiatric evaluation focusing on PTSD and resilence processes would be valuable.
Table : Characteristics of the patients.
1. van den Berg, B., et al., Clinical outcome of Guillain-Barre syndrome after prolonged mechanical ventilation. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 2018. 7(317968): p. 2018-317968.
2. Le Guennec, L., et al., Post-traumatic stress symptoms in Guillain-Barre syndrome patients after prolonged mechanical ventilation in ICU: a preliminary report. J Peripher Nerv Syst., 2014. 19(3): p. 218-23. doi: 10.1111/jns.12087.
3. Wagnild, G.M. and H.M. Young, Development and psychometric evaluation of the Resilience Scale. J Nurs Meas, 1993. 1(2): p. 165-78.
4. Ranscombe, P., Fear, resilience, and tunnel vision. Lancet Neurol, 2015. 14(12): p. 1158.
5. Park, C.L., et al., Does Wartime Captivity Affect Late-life Mental Health? A Study of Vietnam-era Repatriated Prisoners of War. Res Hum Dev, 2012. 9(3): p. 191-209.