Acute Flaccid Myelitis

  • Posted on: Oct 15 2020
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Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a devastating condition that creates sudden-onset weakness in one or more arms or legs, usually in young children. The condition is also known as “polio-like paralysis” and has an odd pattern of upticks followed by downturns.

Dr. Seruya has operated on many children who have lost function in a limb through AFM. Here’s more about this frightening condition.

What are the symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis?

In the beginning, patients first report flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, cold, and a runny nose. These symptoms are followed by severe muscle soreness in the arms and/or legs. Over the course of days, these muscle aches can transform into weakness and even paralysis of the arms or legs. The condition can impact the muscles that control breathing. When this happens, the patient may need to be placed on a ventilator.

What causes acute flaccid myelitis?

Acute flaccid myelitis can be caused by a common cold virus, such as enterovirus or adenovirus. The virus turns off one or more major nerves directly at their source in the spinal cord. This is the same area of the spinal cord that is affected by Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

Unfortunately, researchers and doctors have not been able to identify any specific environmental or patient-specific risk factors that would put someone at a higher risk for developing AFM after coming down with a common cold.

Fluctuating numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which started tracking AFM cases in 2014, patients have onset of AFM between August and November. Cases increase every two years. Here are the numbers of AFM cases nationally:

  • 2014 = 120 total confirmed cases in 34 states
  • 2015 = 22 confirmed cases in 17 states
  • 2016 = 153 confirmed cases in 39 states and the District of Columbia
  • 2017 = 38 confirmed cases in 17 states
  • 2018 = 238 confirmed cases in 42 states
  • 2019 = 46 confirmed cases in 18 states

As you can see, there is a dramatic rise every other year, both in the number of cases and in the number of states where they occur.

How is acute flaccid myelitis diagnosed?

As a nerve specialist, Dr. Seruya has been called on to help with many AFM cases in California and other states. AFM can usually be diagnosed by the history of a viral illness followed by signs of weakness of the arms, legs, face, and/or trunk. If diagnosis is still uncertain after those factors are examined, Dr. Seruya may use a nerve conduction and muscle study. This will provide more information on the health of the individual nerves and their muscles. An MRI can show if the nerves have been directly injured at the area where they leave the spinal cord.

If you have problems with nerves Dr. Seruya is the resource you need to see. Please call us at (323) 361-5682 for pediatric patients or (818) 241-4217 for adult patients.

Posted in: Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

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