Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) is the broad term used to describe a number of related acute autoimmune neuropathies, which together form a continuous spectrum of variable and overlapping syndromes. Bifacial weakness with paresthesias (BFP) is a rare variant of GBS, characterized by isolated facial diplegia in the absence of ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, or limb weakness, and it is usually associated with distal limb paresthesias.
An 8-year-old boy was brought to our attention; because 5 days before coming to the hospital, he noticed he could no longer smile. Bilateral facial droop and inability to close both eyes were evident along with slight paresthesias at the hands and feet and gait disturbances. He progressively developed hypophonia, dysarthria, dysphagia associated with dysmetria, and limb ataxia. Nerve conduction studies showed a demyelinating polyneuropathy. Brain and spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed contrast enhancement of both facial nerves and cauda equina nerve roots along with a hyperintense signal of the periaqueductal gray matter, superior cerebellar peduncles, and pontine tegmentum. Because BFP is not typically associated with other cranial neuropathies or ataxia, these clinical features along with peculiar MRI findings supported the diagnosis of “BFP plus.” Finally, it can be speculated that this case configures a rare overlap between BFP and the other GBS variants, such as Bickerstaff encephalitis.
This atypical case underlines the potential role of MRI in contributing to refining the nosological classification of GBS spectrum and optimizing individual treatment, especially in children where unusual manifestations are not infrequent and neurological examination is more challenging.