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WMJ Vol. 117 No. 4: Historical Review

The Legacy of the Seminal Publication by Guillain, Barré, and Strohl: The History Behind the Eponym

Andrew J. Waclawik, MD



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The report, “On a syndrome of radiculoneuritis with hyperalbuminosis of the cerebrospinal fluid without a cellular reaction. Remarks on the clinical characteristics and tracings of the tendon reflexes,” published in 1916, included superb longitudinal clinical observations of progressive areflexic paralysis in 2 French soldiers, unique laboratory findings from the still new at that time technique of lumbar puncture, and electrophysiological studies. The classic observation of the albumino-cytologic dissociation in the spinal fluid, even over 100 years later, is still one of the most important laboratory findings used by clinicians to confirm the suspected diagnosis of the Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, typically eponymously referred to as Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). The contribution of André Strohl, who reported the electrophysiological abnormalities observed in their patients with novel myographic studies of tendon reflexes, led to eventual widespread use of electrodiagnostic techniques in bedside diagnosis of neuromuscular conditions. Since 1916, the clinicopathological spectrum of GBS has expanded continuously, with better understanding of the etiology, pathology, and electrodiagnostic findings. However, most of the seminal observations and conclusions presented by Guillain, Barré, and Strohl have withstood the test of time. Their landmark publication has become a standard of excellence in the history of clinical neurology. Deservedly, “GBS” is one of the most recognized medical eponyms around the world.

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis (Waclawik).

Corresponding Author: Andrew J. Waclawik, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 7136, 7th Floor, MFCB, 1685 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53705; phone 608.263.7539; fax 608.263.0412; email waclawik@neurology.wisc.edu.