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Polio (cont.)

What Is the Medical Treatment for Polio?

There is no treatment that will cure polio once the virus has infected the patient. The key to treatment is early diagnosis and supportive treatments such as bed rest, pain control, good nutrition, and especially physical therapy to prevent deformities from occurring over time and prevention of muscle function loss. Some patients will need extensive support such as breathing assistance and special diets if they cannot swallow or have difficulty swallowing; others may require splints to avoid pain, muscle spasms, and limb deformities.

Is Surgery a Treatment for Polio?

There is an extensive body of literature that describes the various surgical techniques that have been used to treat polio patients. Most polio patients who undergo surgery have either not had treatment or failed medical treatments and are often in the residual or post-polio syndrome stage (see prognosis section below). Such a discussion is too lengthy to present in this article, but the surgical topics listed below can give readers insight into the long-term complications that may result from paralytic polio and why vaccination that prevents the disease is so important:

  • Contracture release surgery
  • Muscle transplantation
  • Joint stabilization, joint fusion, and joint replacement surgery
  • Limb lengthening
  • Foot correction surgery

What Is the Follow-up for Polio?

Follow-up of patients with polio, especially those who develop the paralytic disease is often lifelong and remains the best way to reduce complications and treat the disease symptoms. Depending on the severity of the disease symptoms, follow-up care may range from physical therapy to multiple surgical interventions.

A major reason for follow-up is to monitor the patient for post-polio syndrome. Post-polio syndrome is a condition of increasing muscle weakness, muscle pain, and fatigue that can appear about 15-30 years after recovery from the initial paralytic disease. It may occur in 25%-50% of patients who develop paralytic polio. Treatment of symptoms is supportive (rest, braces, and pain control).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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