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Rehabilitation in children with acute flaccid myelitis

Rehabilitation in children with acute flaccid myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a condition that can attack the nervous tissue and the myelin (the protective coating) of the spine nerves. This can result in weakness and loss of function. AFM remains a very rare illness, with approximately 400 cases in the United States over the last four years (less than one person per million each year).

AFM typically causes weakness in the arms, legs, neck or shoulders, and occasionally can affect breathing. Physicians do not yet know the exact cause, although AFM cases seem to be highest from August to November, and occur most often in children. It appears to follow an enterovirus (similar to the polio virus) infection that causes patients’ immune systems to attack their own nerves.

Pediatric neurologists and pediatric intensive care unit doctors are the specialists who initially care for patients with AFM. Once they begin to improve, patients can benefit from rehabilitation services. The ability to recover from weakness is difficult to predict, with some patients recovering fully, while others remain weak. The physicians at the Chicago Shriners Hospital believe that with therapy, the ability to recover improves. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago has cared for a number of patients with AFM.

An acute inpatient rehabilitation program, such as that offered at the Chicago Shriners Hospital, is often the best place to work on recovery from conditions such as AFM, transverse myelitis and other types of spinal cord injuries. Our therapists, nurses, doctors and parents all cooperate to design a unique recovery plan for each child. The Chicago Shriners Hospital multidisciplinary team of rehabilitation and ICU physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, care managers, teacher and child life, and recreation therapists are here to help maximize each child’s recovery in a loving and supportive environment. Our experienced team uses advanced rehabilitation technology to help children recover and return home.

Learn about nerve transfer surgery, which may be an additional option for some children with AFM. 

Remember: vaccinations, hand washing and avoiding exposure to others when ill are effective in decreasing the spread of many harmful illnesses. To learn more about AFM, please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.