Objectives: To compare perceived health problems and disability in former polio subjects with postpolio syndrome (PPS) and those without postpolio syndrome (non-PPS), and to evaluate perceived health problems, disability, physical performance, and muscle strength.
Design: Cross-sectional survey; partially blinded data collection.
Subjects: One hundred three former polio subjects, aged 32 to 60yrs. This volunteer sample came from referrals and patient contacts. Criterion for PPS: new muscle weakness among symptoms.
Main outcome measures: Nottingham Health Profile (NHP), adapted D-code of the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps, performance test, and muscle strength assessment.
Results: PPS subjects (n = 76) showed higher scores (p < .001) than non-PPS subjects (n = 27) within the NHP categories of physical mobility, energy, and pain. On a 16-item Polio Problems List, 78% of PPS subjects selected fatigue as their major problem, followed by walking outdoors (46%) and climbing stairs (41%). The disabilities of PPS subjects were mainly seen in physical and social functioning. No differences in manually tested strength were found between patient groups. PPS subjects needed significantly more time for the performance test than non-PPS subjects and their perceived exertion was higher. Perceived health problems (NHP-PhysMobility) correlated significantly with physical disability (r = .66), performance-time (r = .54), and muscle strength (r = .38). With linear regression analysis, 54% of the NHP-PhysMobility score could be explained by the performance test (time and exertion), presence of PPS, and muscle strength, whereas strength itself explained only 14% of the NHP-PhysMobility score.
Conclusions: PPS subjects are more prone to fatigue and have more physical mobility problems than non-PPS subjects. In former polio patients, measurements of perceived health problems and performance tests are the most appropriate instruments for functional evaluation.