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Surgery & Anaesthesia


Like everybody else, people with polio might need surgery one day. Because of the history of polio extra precautions are needed. Patients with PPS may display altered respiratory function, chronic pain syndromes, cold intolerance, risk of aspiration, and altered sensitivity to anesthetic agents.
Take time to research the operation, the need for it, the consequences and to prepare adequate and informed post-op options for best recovery.
Surgeons can be very enthusiastic and positive about an operation, but might not have any experience with operating people with polio.
It is very important to talk with the surgeon about what the polio did to your body and the complications the disease brought on you. It might be a good idea to go to your rehabilitation doctor first. He knows or can find out what the consequences of polio are on your physical anatomy, muscle strength and ability. Ask what the impact of the operation is on your functionality and what the best way is for rehabilitation after the surgery. Ask your rehabilitation doctor if he will contact the surgeon and discuss your case.
If, after talking everything over with the surgeon, you have doubts about him doing the surgery, go for a second opinion with another surgeon.


Talk to the anaesthetist beforehand about your polio history. Do this especially if you had difficulty with breathing or swallowing in the acute phase of the polio infection. He can then decide to do detailed respiratory evaluation tests and arrange the narcotics according to the outcomes.
If you have scoliosis, spinal anaesthesia might be difficult.
Talk about the positioning on the operation table, this might prevent more complaints afterwards.
Often it is very cold in the operating theater, ask for extra warm blankets.
Discuss what sort of pain medication is best for you after the surgery.

Information about surgery and anaesthesia

There is not a lot of significant published information on this subject, but 2 helpful resources are:
"Post Polio Syndrome and Anesthesia" by David Lambert MD et al, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada in the Sept 2005 issue of Anesthesiology (Vol. 103, No. 3, pp 638-644. See at:  
Post Polio Health International: Dr Selma Calmes, see at:

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