Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Guillain-Barre syndrome can be difficult to diagnose in its earliest stages. Its signs and symptoms are similar to those of other neurological disorders and may vary from person to person.

The first step in diagnosing Guillain-Barre syndrome is for your doctor to take a careful medical history to fully understand the cluster of signs and symptoms you're experiencing.

A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) and nerve function tests are commonly used to help confirm a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)

This procedure involves withdrawing a small amount of fluid from your spinal canal at your low back (lumbar) level. This cerebrospinal fluid is then tested for a specific type of change that commonly occurs in people who have Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Nerve function tests

Your doctor may want information from two types of nerve function tests — electromyography and nerve conduction velocity:

  • Electromyography reads electrical activity in your muscles to determine if your weakness is caused by muscle damage or nerve damage.
  • Nerve conduction studies assess how your nerves and muscles respond to small electrical stimuli.
May. 28, 2011