Challenges in the Clinical Recognition of Acute Flaccid Myelitis and its Implications

Leslie H. Hayes, Sarah E. Hopkins, Shanshan Liu, Carlos A. Pardo, Maria A. Garcia-Dominguez, Joyce Oleszek, Carmen Yea, Beyza Ciftci-Kavaklioglu, E. Ann Yeh, Janet Dean, Cristina L. Sadowsky, Jay Desai, Sarah Wiegand, Raquel Farias-Moeller, Kendall Nash, Kiran T. Thakur, Wendy S. Vargas, Sue J. Hong-Routson, Anusha Yeshokumar, Melissa S. ZhouNaila Makhani, Molly Wilson-Murphy, Riley Bove, Bo Zhang, Leslie A. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To explore the challenges in diagnosing acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and evaluate clinical features and treatment paradigms associated with under recognition. Study design: This was a retrospective multicenter study of pediatric patients (≤18 years) who were diagnosed with AFM from 2014 to 2018 using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's case definition. Results: In 72% of the cases (126 of 175), AFM was not considered in the initial differential diagnosis (n = 108; 61.7%) and/or the patient was not referred for acute care (n = 90; 51.4%) at the initial clinical encounter, and this did not improve over time. Although many features of the presentation were similar in those initially diagnosed with AFM and those who were not; preceding illness, constipation, and reflexes differed significantly between the 2 groups. Patients with a non-AFM initial diagnosis more often required ventilatory support (26.2% vs 12.2%; OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-1.0; P = .05). These patients received immunomodulatory treatment later (3 days vs 2 days after neurologic symptom onset; 95% CI, −2 to 0; P = .05), particularly intravenous immunoglobulin (5 days vs 2 days; 95% CI, −4 to −2; P < .001). Conclusions: Delayed recognition of AFM is concerning because of the risk for respiratory decompensation and need for intensive care monitoring. A non-AFM initial diagnosis was associated with delayed treatment that could have a clinical impact, particularly as new treatment options emerge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-62.e4
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • child
  • enterovirus
  • misdiagnosis
  • paralysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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