Objective: To examine and compare the long term outcome after polio in an east European and a west European country with different access to rehabilitation and with different medical and social conditions.
Design and Setting: The patients who were acutely hospitalised for polio 1950–54 in the University Hospital in Bergen, Norway and 1958 in the University Hospital in Tartu, Estonia received the mailed questionnaire in the period between January 1998 and December 1998.
Patients: Patient files concerning 334 patients hospitalised in Tartu and 243 patients hospitalised in Bergen were obtained; of these 128 Estonian and 148 Norwegian patients were re-examined.
Main results: Despite more pronounced disability in the acute stage, significantly more Norwegian patients were working full time and part time in 1998 (p<0.0001) and also through the period 1958–1998. In both countries, 30% of patients had manual work and 18% changed profession during their career. Low income (below 50% of national average) was reported by 73% of Estonian and 35% of Norwegian patients (p<0.0001). Except for the odds ratio for muscular pain of 1.89 (95%CI =1.14 to 3.14) for Norwegian patients, new symptoms indicating late progression did not differ. Norwegian patients were more independent with significantly less need for assistance in housekeeping (p=0.02), whereas the use of orthopaedic devices did not differ.
Conclusions: The long term outcome after polio is different in eastern and western Europe. Access to continuous rehabilitation seems to maintain physical independence in polio patients, improves their ability to earn their own income, and lessens the need for disability pensions.
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Funding: the study is supported by Inger Haldorsens and L Meltzers foundations.
Conflicts of interest: none.