In July, the Centers for Disease (CDC) issued a warning for health care providers that 2020 could see an increase in Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in the United States, with peak activity expected in September. Research into this debilitating disease shows that early diagnosis and early treatment of AFM’s symptoms can have a significant impact on recovery.

AFM presents with sudden onset of limb weakness. Most patients had a respiratory illness or fever before the onset of weakness. 2018 was a peak year for AFM, affecting 238 children in the United States. Of those cases, over 60 percent of children experienced symptoms in at least two limbs, 47% of the cases involved the upper-body. According to research done by the CDC, motor function deficits are still prevalent in 75% of AFM patients after treatment and few make a complete recovery. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a combination of rehabilitative medicine and surgical interventions may be needed to regain even partial motor function.

Gillette is an important center for AFM care and rehabilitation

Gillette Children's is widely recognized for its expertise in treating complex and rare conditions, including AFM. In fact, most Minnesota children diagnosed with AFM during the latest outbreaks received care from Gillette. Our coordinated care team includes the pediatric rehabilitation medicine team, pediatric neurologists and rehabilitation therapists. Rehabilitation therapy often includes Gillette’s upper extremity functional and intensive therapy (UFIT) program, which utilizes the ArmeoSpring to build strength and improve range of motion. Therapy may also include RobALT therapy with a robotic-assisted Locomotor, called a Locomat®, for the lower extremities. Gillette is the only pediatric hospital in the region with both of these cutting-edge technologies, allowing our team to maximize AFM patients’ motor function and recovery.

An inpatient rehabilitation medicine stay may be necessary for optimal recovery. This is a rigorous schedule of activity-based, high-repetition, restorative therapies that provide input both above and below the level of injury. These therapies can include:

  • Functional electronic stimulation (FES)
  • Weight-bearing therapy
  • Locomotor (robotic) and Armeo® Spring therapy
  • Task-specific therapy
  • Massed therapy practice

Consult with a Specialist at Gillette

Early treatment is key to minimizing AFM’s effects on motor function. Our team of specialists is available anytime for consultation and urgent referrals by calling 651-325-2200.


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