Post Polio Syndrome | Diagnosis & Treatment | MedStar Health

Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) is a neurologic disorder that produces a group of symptoms in persons who had paralytic polio many years earlier. Because these symptoms tend to occur together, they are called a syndrome. Typically, symptoms arise after a period of functional and neurological stability of at least 15 years after the initial episode of polio and include:

  • New weakness in the muscles previously affected by polio, as well as in muscles thought to be unaffected by the original illness
  • Pain in the muscles or joints
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased endurance and function
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swallowing problems
  • Cold intolerance

Some PPS symptoms (such as weakness, fatigue, and atrophy) appear to be caused by a progressive degeneration or impairment of motor units. Other symptoms (such as muscle and joint pain) are more likely the result of excessive wear and tear on different parts of the musculoskeletal system. This wear and tear can be brought on or worsen when muscles become weaker.

MedStar Health offers a comprehensive, initial evaluation by an interdisciplinary team designed to identify problems and to rule out other causes of new health problems. At the end of the evaluation, the team provides each patient with a written plan of treatment and individualized recommendations to help:

  • Reduce fatigue and pain
  • Modify daily energy expenditure
  • Develop a therapeutic exercise plan
  • Provide aids, devices, and bracing to support weakened muscles
  • Develop new strategies to improve ambulation and/or wheelchair mobility
  • Educate family and friends

Post-polio program

The Post-Polio Program at MedStar Health offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment for persons who had polio many years ago and are now experiencing new health problems possibly related to their polio.

Established in 1986 by polio survivor Lauro S. Halstead, MD, the MedStar Health Post-Polio Program, based at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country and only one of a few still active. Its goal is to help individuals become more effective in managing polio-related health problems through comprehensive evaluation, treatment, education, and follow-up.

Dr. Halstead retired in June 2012 and the Program is now under the leadership of John N. Aseff, MD. Dr. Aseff is a widely respected member of the rehabilitation medicine community, both locally and nationally. He is very familiar with polio and post-polio related health issues and is an authority in neuromusculoskeletal and electrodiagnostic medicine.

Each individual is treated according to his or her unique struggle to remain as independent as possible in the face of new health problems and progressive disability. People who are not experiencing new health problems but are interested in learning how to avoid or minimize late complications are also seen. Because of the comprehensive nature of the initial evaluation, new patients are typically seen over a one-and-a-half-day period.

Typical new patient schedule

Day one:

  • History and physical
  • Physical therapy evaluation
  • Occupational therapy evaluation
  • Rehabilitation nursing evaluation
  • Assistive device and energy conservation evaluation
  • Consultation with social worker

Day two (half day):

  • Follow-up session with occupational and physical therapists
  • Team conference
  • Orthotic device evaluation (as needed)
  • Electrodiagnostic (EMG/NCS) evaluation (as needed)
  • Evaluation by nutritionist (as needed)

Our providers

polio care specialist giving polio to baby

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