Postpolio syndrome (PPS) may affect survivors of paralytic poliomyelitis and is characterised by a complex of neuromuscular symptoms leading to a decline in physical functioning. The effectiveness of pharmacological treatment and rehabilitation management in PPS is not yet established. This is an update of a review first published in 2011.
To systematically review the evidence from randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials for the effect of any pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment for PPS compared to placebo, usual care or no treatment.
We searched the following databases on 21 July 2014: Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL Plus. We also checked reference lists of all relevant articles, searched the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Database and trial registers and contacted investigators known to be involved in research in this area.
Randomised and quasi-randomised trials of any form of pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment for people with PPS. The primary outcome was self perceived activity limitations and secondary outcomes were muscle strength, muscle endurance, fatigue, pain and adverse events.
Data collection and analysis
We used standard methodological procedures expected by The Cochrane Collaboration.
We included 10 pharmacological (modafinil, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), pyridostigmine, lamotrigine, amantadine, prednisone) and three non-pharmacological (muscle strengthening, rehabilitation in a warm climate (that is temperature ± 25°C, dry and sunny) and a cold climate (that is temperature ± 0°C, rainy or snowy), static magnetic fields) studies with a total of 675 participants with PPS in this review. None of the included studies were completely free from any risk of bias, the most prevalent risk of bias being lack of blinding.
There was moderate- and low-quality evidence that IVIg has no beneficial effect on activity limitations in the short term and long term, respectively, and inconsistency in the evidence for effectiveness on muscle strength. IVIg caused minor adverse events in a substantial proportion of the participants. Results of one trial provided very low-quality evidence that lamotrigine might be effective in reducing pain and fatigue, resulting in fewer activity limitations without generating adverse events. Data from two single trials suggested that muscle strengthening of thumb muscles (very low-quality evidence) and static magnetic fields (moderate-quality evidence) are safe and beneficial for improving muscle strength and pain, respectively, with unknown effects on activity limitations. Finally, there was evidence varying from very low quality to high quality that modafinil, pyridostigmine, amantadine, prednisone and rehabilitation in a warm or cold climate are not beneficial in PPS.
Due to insufficient good-quality data and lack of randomised studies, it was impossible to draw definite conclusions about the effectiveness of interventions for PPS. Results indicated that IVIg, lamotrigine, muscle strengthening exercises and static magnetic fields may be beneficial but need further investigation to clarify whether any real and meaningful effect exists.