What are the possible complications of polio?

Updated: Mar 17, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Respiratory failure secondary to paralysis of respiratory muscles or to lesions of the respiratory center is a life-threatening complication of paralytic polio.

Pharyngeal paralysis may occur.

Myocarditis is rarely diagnosed clinically.

Gastrointestinal hemorrhage results from intestinal erosions and may require transfusion. Gastric dilation is abrupt in onset, and immediate gastric aspiration should be performed.

Hypertension is a common complication and may progress to hypertensive encephalopathy.

Postpolio syndrome occurs 3-4 decades after acute paralytic polio. It is characterized by muscle pain, worsening of prior weakness, or new paralysis. This is more common in women than in men.

Vaccine-associated poliomyelitis occurs in approximately 1 per 2.6 million people overall and in 1 per 750,000 people who receive the OPV.

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