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Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

(AIDP, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Acute Idiopathic Polyneuritis, Acute Inflammatory Polyneuropathy, Acute Autoimmune Neuropathy, Idiopathic Polyneuritis)


Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP) is a rare condition that causes the immune system to attack the nerves. There are treatments for this condition, so contact your doctor if you think you may have it.

Anatomy of the Nervous System

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© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


AIDP is an autoimmune syndrome, but it is not clear what causes it. In this condition, the immune system begins to destroy the material that surrounds the nerves known as myelin, so the nerves can’t transmit signals efficiently. This causes muscles to lose their ability to respond to the brain’s messages.

One theory behind the cause is the presence of antibodies in the blood that may affect how the autoimmune system behaves. Antibodies are proteins that are made by the immune system to attack foreign substances that may threaten the body. But in the case of AIDP, there may be antibodies in the blood that might cause the attack of nerves.

Preceding infections with certain organisms may be involved in the cause of AIDP. These include infections with:

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Age: 15-35 and 60-75 years old
  • Recent gastrointestinal or respiratory viral infection
  • Surgery
  • Vaccinations


If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to AIDP. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • Weakness or tingling in the legs that may spread to the arms and upper body
  • Restricted muscle use
  • Almost complete paralysis
  • Problems breathing
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rate


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Plasmapheresis —In plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, whole blood is taken from your body. The plasma (clear, yellowish fluid portion of the blood) is removed along with the antibodies. The blood is the returned to the body, and the body replaces the plasma.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy —Your doctor may give you high doses of immunoglobulin proteins through intravenous (IV) injections to lessen the immune attack on your nervous system.


Since its cause is unclear, there is no known way to prevent AIDP.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

National Library of Medicine


Canadian Directory of Genetic Support Groups

Canadian Institute for Health Information


Bosch EP, Smith BE. Disoders of peripheral nerves. In: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Philadelphia, PA: Butterhworth-Heinemann Elsevier. 2007:2336-2345.

Guillain-Barre syndrome. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Guillain-Barre syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/gbs/detail_gbs.htm . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Last reviewed February 2008 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.