Flaccid Paralysis

Flaccid paralysis is a condition characterized by extreme weakness of muscles and loss of muscle tone.

Symptoms

Acute paralysis in limbs that are flaccid (floppy or limp) are associated with this condition.  Signs and symptoms depends on what is causing the AFP:

  • Progression of paralysis
  • Fever onset
  • Diminished muslce tone
  • Sensory loss, cramps, or tingling of palms and soles of the feet
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Respiratory insufficiency

Causes of Flaccid Paralysis

A common cause of flaccid paralysis is anterior spinal artery syndrome, in which the anterior spinal artery is blocked. Blockage can be caused by spinal cord trauma, cancer, arterial disease, or thrombosis. Other causes of flaccid paralysis include:

  • Central pontine myelinolysis— The protective layer around the brainstem nerve cells is destroyed, preventing the transmittal of nerve signals
  • Hyperkalemia— Caused by an excess of potassium in the body
  • Hypokalemic periodic paralysis— An inherited muscle condition characterized by severe episodes of paralysis and muscle weakness which can last for hours or days
  • Japanese encephalitis— A form of encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes

Treatment for Flaccid Paralysis

The doctor determines the location of activity using evaluation and special testing. Once the presence of muscle activity is determined, a therapist can help the patient regain some strength and muscle tone by reinforcing correct movement patterns.

Acute Flaccid Paralysis and West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus has also been associated with acute flaccid paralysis because of a peripheral demyelinating process.  Patients who exhibit sever weakness should be screened for West Nile Virus before beginning treatment for presumed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).  AFP can be differenitated from GBS, as GBS usually exhibits symmetric weakness, sensory changes or parathesias, and the syndrome usually follows signs of a severe infection after several days.  Elevation of CSF proteins is also characteristic of GBS.