Facial paralysis occurs when a person is unable to move all or some of the muscles on one or both sides of the face. Facial paralysis may be the result of damage to the facial nerve or to the area of the brain that sends signals to the muscle of the face.This may be the result of a stroke or be caused by a genetic defect, brain tumor, infection, trauma, Lyme disease or Bell’s palsy. Facial paralysis can lead to a distorted facial expression and problems with chewing, drinking, breathing and speaking. It may also cause drooping facial features, and may be accompanied by low self-esteem and other distressing emotional side effects.
Facial reanimation is surgical procedure used to correct facial paralysis. This procedure helps patients regain control of their muscles for both functional and cosmetic purposes. Facial reanimation aims to restore symmetry and function to the facial nerve while maintaining the most natural look possible. Doctors may utilize different techniques based on the age, health, and individual needs of each patient, when performing a facial reanimation procedure.
Types of Facial Reanimation Surgery
There are two common techniques used for a facial reanimation procedure.
This procedures transplants nerves from different parts of the body to the face. A nerve graft taken from the leg can be inserted and wired to the different branches of the facial nerve in order to replace the paralyzed nerve. After a certain amount of time to allow the nerve to reinnervate, a muscle graft is inserted and attached to the new nerve. After another period of waiting time, this muscle can be controlled by the nerve and facial movement can be restored.
Muscle transfers involve moving tendons and muscles from one part of the body and implanting them into the paralyzed area of face. Muscles and tendons from the the legs or abdomen are commonly used in this procedure.
Recovery From Facial Reanimation
After a facial reanimation procedure, the patient may stay in the hospital for two days. Patients may experience facial swelling for two to four weeks after the procedure and may also experience soreness in the area (such as the leg) where the nerve or muscle graft was taken from. Doctors will closely monitor the area after surgery for one to two weeks and remove any sutures that may have been used during surgery.
Results of Facial Reanimation
It may take a few months for the nerves to heal and begin working, and full results may take up to a year after surgery. Some patients may benefit from physical therapy to help them with restored movement to the face. While this procedure may not restore perfect symmetry to a face, it can help to restore a functional degree of movement to improve the individual’s quality of life.