Aging in polio

Matthew N. Bartels, Akiko Omura

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


For a disease that was "conquered" some 40 years ago with the onset of effective vaccination, the issues of long-term survivors of paralytic polio as they age continue to present challenges to rehabilitation specialists. Aging with polio is a definition of PPS. There are over a million patients with PPS in the United States. Management has to include the appropriate use of exercises, appropriate bracing and support, and, in the case of bulbar and respiratory symptoms, the appropriate use of speech therapy services and ventilatory support. There are no prospective randomized trials studying the treatment of weakness and fatigue in PPS. Pharmacologic interventions are limited at this time but include anticholinergics for muscle weakness and dopaminergic agents or amantadine to control central fatigue. The pathophysiology of aging with polio is consistent with neuronal loss and denervation lying at the heart of the developing disorder, whereas the central nervous system components of the fatigue syndrome may be related to central changes with neuronal loss in the basal ganglia and reticular-activating system. Many of the survivors of the polio epidemics are in their later retirement years, and their needs will increase as they have other disabilities due to natural aging. Sensitivity to some of the special issues in PPS may help to avoid complications. Polio is an active infection in the third world. Although great strides have been made, the disease is endemic in eight nations and is threatening to spread. The lessons learned in treating PPS now will be useful in years to come as these individuals age and manifest PPS in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-218
Number of pages22
JournalPhysical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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