Article ID: CBB297517123

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR’s) (1882–1945) 1921 Neurological Disease Revisited; the Most Likely Diagnosis Remains Guillain–Barré Syndrome (2016)


In 2003, we published evidence that the most likely cause of FDR’s 1921 neurological disease was Guillain–Barré syndrome. Afterwards, several historians and neurologists stated in their publications that FDR had paralytic poliomyelitis. However, significant criticism of our article or new support for that diagnosis was not revealed. One critic claimed that FDR’s cerebrospinal fluid indicated poliomyelitis, but we did not find evidence that a lumbar puncture was performed. The diagnosis of FDR’s neurological disease still depends upon documented clinical abnormalities. His age, prolonged symmetric ascending paralysis, transient numbness, protracted dysaesthesia (pain on slight touch), facial paralysis, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and absence of meningismus are typical of Guillain–Barré syndrome and are inconsistent with paralytic poliomyelitis. FDR’s prolonged fever was atypical for both diseases. Finally, permanent paralysis, though commoner in paralytic poliomyelitis, is frequent in Guillain–Barré syndrome. Thus, the clinical findings indicate the most likely diagnosis in FDR’s case remains Guillain–Barré syndrome.

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Authors & Contributors
Fairchild, Amy L.
Sacks, Oliver W.
Fitzgerald, Michael J.
Miscamble, Wilson D.
Tacik, Pawel
Alfieri, Alex
Journal of Medical Biography
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
History of Psychology
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Technology and Culture
Cambridge University Press
University of Rochester Press
Harvard University
Regent University
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Cambridge University
Neurological diseases
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Ramanujan, Srinivasa
Rogers, Carl R.
Bennett, Hugh Hammond
Churchill, Winston
Hitler, Adolf
United States
Potsdam (Germany)
North Carolina (U.S.)
Great Britain
Southern states (U.S.)
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
21st century
New Deal (1933-1939)
United States. Department of Agriculture
Tennessee Valley Authority
Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
United States. Farm Security Administration

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