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Postpoliomyelitis Syndrome

(Postpolio Syndrome)

By Mary T. Caserta, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases; Attending Physician, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, University of Rochester Medical Center

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Patient Education

Postpoliomyelitis syndrome is a group of symptoms that develops years or decades after paralytic poliomyelitis and usually affects the same muscle groups as the initial infection.

In patients who have had paralytic poliomyelitis, muscle fatigue and decreased endurance, often accompanied by weakness, fasciculations, and atrophy, may develop years or decades later, particularly in older patients and in patients who are severely affected initially. Damage usually occurs in previously affected muscle groups. However, postpoliomyelitis syndrome rarely increases disability substantially.

The cause may be related to further loss of anterior horn cells due to aging in a population of neurons already depleted by earlier poliovirus infection.

Treatment of postpoliomyelitis syndrome is supportive.