The effect of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) on the short-term variability of blood pressure and heart rate was evaluated in six patients presenting with a moderate form of the syndrome, i.e. unable to stand up unaided and without respiratory failure, at the height of the disease and during recovery. The patients were compared with six age-matched healthy volunteers. During the acute phase of the syndrome, GBS patients exhibited a significant heart rate elevation (+26 beats/min compared with healthy subjects), but the acceleratory response to atropine, or to 60 ° head-up tilt, was maintained. Resting plasma noradrenaline levels were high in acute GBS, but the secretory response to tilt was preserved. Desensitization to noradrenaline was observed in acute GBS with a reduced pressor action of this α-adrenoceptor agonist. Blood pressure levels were normal and head-up tilt did not induce orthostatic hypotension in this moderate form of GBS. Power spectral analysis demonstrated marked alterations in cardiovascular variability. The overall heart period variability was markedly reduced with the reduction predominantly in the high-frequency (respiratory) range (-73%). The low-frequency component of heart period variability was also reduced (-54%). This cardiovascular profile of moderate GBS at the height of the disease could result from a demyelination of the reflex loop controlling respiratory oscillations in heart rate and from a desensitization of the arterial tree to an elevated plasma noradrenaline. Sympathetic nervous activation may contribute to the high resting heart rate in acute GBS.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.