Facial expressions are a key element in communication. They often communicate as much as the words we speak. This is why facial paralysis can be so devastating; it harms or takes away a vital mode of communication. If you or someone you love has experienced facial paralysis due to stroke, acoustic neuroma surgery, Bell’s palsy, trauma, or other cause, treatment at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction may be able to help.
What is Facial Paralysis?
Facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy, or other cause, is a loss of function in the nerves that control the facial muscles for expression and function. The symptoms may vary from mild loss of facial symmetry when smiling or lip pursing, to more severe consequences, including excessive tearing or dryness of the eyes, drooping eyelids, drooling from the mouth, or total facial immobility. Some individuals also experience facial ticks or abnormal, uncontrolled winking. Surgical treatment for facial paralysis and Bell’s palsy at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction can effectively address these problems and restore more normal function to the face.
What is the Anatomy of the Facial Nerves?
The two facial nerves, one on each side of the face, are responsible for many different facial functions. These range from controlling the muscles responsible for blinking, smiling, and frowning, to transmitting taste sensations to the brain.
What is Bell’s Palsy?
When impulses traveling along the facial nerves are disrupted, facial paralysis can occur. This condition, known as Bell’s palsy, is caused by inflammation of the facial nerve, which then swells inside the bony tunnel that surrounds it. Experts are uncertain regarding the exact cause of Bell’s palsy, although there is some evidence to support that it is due to a viral illness. Bell’s palsy is initially treated with anti-inflammatory and anti-viral medical therapy, and in some cases early surgical intervention will be recommended to relieve pressure around the nerve and restore the facial nerve’s ability to transmit messages to and from the brain. However, when the facial paralysis caused by Bell’s palsy does not resolve, advanced surgical techniques may be required to restore facial nerve function.
What are the Surgical Options for Facial Paralysis Treatment?
The physicians at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in New Jersey offer comprehensive treatment options for reversing facial paralysis, including the most advanced microsurgical methods of nerve repair. This includes transplanting nerves and or muscles to restore facial nerve function to the injured side of the face. Cross-facial grafting is the procedure that involves harvesting a nerve from the leg and using it to transmit impulses from the normal facial nerve to the side with facial paralysis. Hypoglossal or masseter nerve transfers involve re-routing portions of adjacent, functioning nerves to the damaged facial nerve on the same side of the face. Gracilis free flap with cross-facial grafting is a staged microsurgical procedure that replaces irreversibly damaged facial muscles with a muscle from the medial thigh that can function just like native facial muscles. Our physicians are experts in peripheral nerve microsurgery and skilled in all of these procedures.