Facial paralysis affects the cosmetic and functional aspects of the face. If left untreated, facial paralysis can create a variety of devastating problems. Difficulty with speech, eating and drinking, as well as drooling and permanently strained facial expressions can occur. In addition to the physical symptoms of facial paralysis, people with facial nerve damage can suffer from low self-esteem and social anxiety due to their condition.
Contact us online to learn more about your options for facial nerve repair. The Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas helps men and women from Austin, Round Rock and throughout Texas. Count on our team to restore both aesthetics and function through a wide range of procedures.
Overview of Facial Nerve Disorders
Facial paralysis can be caused by several different factors or conditions:
- Bell’s Palsy: The condition most often responsible for facial nerve paralysis or weakness is Bell’s palsy. The cause for Bell’s palsy may be related to a viral infection or nerve inflammation. As the cranial nerve swells within its channel, the resulting pressure causes paralysis. Bell’s palsy typically affects only one side of the face, but may affect both in very rare cases. Treatment can relieve the pressure on the nerve. This decreases swelling and restores improved circulation and nerve function.
- Injuries or Trauma: A skull fracture is the most common injury that directly affects the facial nerve. This can occur right away or later on due to swelling. In some cases, the nerve may also be damaged during some types of reconstructive ear surgery. This is often temporary and only rarely occurs.
- Infection or Disease: Some infections or diseases can also affect the facial nerve. For example, acute middle ear infections can put direct pressure on the facial nerve. This pressure causes facial weakness. A procedure relieves the pressure so patients feel more comfortable again. Some circulatory disorders that affect the nervous system, like a stroke, can also cause facial nerve paralysis.
- Tumors: The growth of facial tumors can also impact the facial nerve. If growth occurs on or near the nerve, the compression results in facial pain. In some cases, a section of the nerve may need to be removed along with the tumor as part of treatment.
- Facial Nerve Neuroma: This type of nonmalignant growth develops within the facial nerve itself. As the growth continues, paralysis spreads. During a procedure, the affected part of the nerve is cut away and the clean ends are connected back together. A nerve graft may also be used.
Although the symptoms cannot be relieved through surgery, Herpes Zoster Oticus (shingles) can also affect the facial nerve. This can cause not only muscle weakness but also balance problems and hearing loss.
There are three basic approaches to facial nerve repair: direct nerve repair, cable nerve grafting or nerve substitution. Direct nerve repair is the preferred option whenever possible and is performed by removing the diseased or affected portion of the nerve, then reconnecting the two nerve ends. Nerve grafting is a similar procedure, except that a donor nerve is used to connect the remaining nerve ends if they no longer reach each other. Finally, during nerve substitution, sometimes called cross-face grafting, your surgeon connects the affected nerves with the healthy ones on the opposite side of the face, restoring greater facial symmetry.
Recovery and Results
Most people experience some initial discomfort after their facial nerve repair procedure. This may not necessarily be painful, but could include any number of sensations as the nerve begins to function properly again. It’s important to keep the head elevated for the first few weeks to allow proper healing.
Facial nerve procedure from the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas helps resolve facial paralysis due to a number of health conditions or as part of facial reconstruction after an accident or injury. After surgery, you can expect to see improved muscle movement in the face, as well as more even symmetry in the affected facial features.