Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in an adult following acute paralytic poliomyelitis in early childhood
About 30% of polio survivors develop a post-polio syndrome. Some of these patients develop slowly progressive muscle weakness known as post-poliomyelitis muscular atrophy (PPMA). We describe an unusual form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in a patient with acute poliomyelitis in childhood. An 80-year-old woman had acute poliomyelitis at 2 years of age and developed weakness limited to the lower extremities. Residual weakness was stable until the age of 75 when she developed rapidly progressive weakness that first affected her left arm and subsequently the right arm. Neurological examination revealed both upper and lower motor neuron signs. These clinical features were more consistent with ALS than PPMA. At autopsy, there was marked atrophy of the precentral gyrus. Microscopic examination revealed a severe loss of all nerve cells and pronounced fibrillary astrocytosis of the lumbar ventral horns in the spinal cord, presumably a result of poliomyelitis. Superimposed on these spinal cord alterations were the pathological features of ALS, consisting of loss of Betz cells, corticospinal tract degeneration and loss of motor neurons of other levels of the spinal cord. The findings included some atypical features for ALS, namely, sparing of the hypoglossal nucleus, absence of Bunina bodies and absence of ubiquitin-immunoreactive inclusions. Although poliomyelitis and ALS may be coincidental, the unusual pathological expression of ALS raise the possibility that it is related to the antecedent poliomyelitis.