What are nerve transfers for facial paralysis?
When facial paralysis treatment is initiated early (less than 12 months), then nerve transfers are possible to restore facial movement. The technique involves borrowing a nerve on the paralyzed side of the face to stimulate the facial nerve itself and all its downstream branches. These donor nerves are chosen because they are not affected by facial nerve palsy.
How is the recovery from nerve transfer treatment?
Surgery requires general anesthesia and takes approximately 3.5 to 4.5 hours to complete. This is most often performed on an outpatient basis, although some individuals elect to stay in an aftercare facility overnight for comfort or if there is no assistance at home. A small rubber drain is placed underneath the skin to draw away extra fluid. It is removed on the second postoperative day. A soft diet is started immediately after surgery. This includes soft foods such as soups, yogurt, well-cooked chicken, rice or pasta. Hard foods such as hard fruits, vegetables, steak, chips, and other similar items are to be avoided for 3 weeks.
Swelling of the face can occur, but typically resolves over the first week. Bruising is not always present, but it will also improve during the same time period. Activity is restricted during the first 4 weeks to light walking and stationary activities. Heavy lifting, contact sports, and aerobic exercises are to be avoided during this time. Most adult patients elect to take approximately 7 days off (or less) from work. During this time, make up can be used to mask any bruising.
Physical therapy is started when there’s evidence of innervation in the paralyzed face. It can take between 2-4 months to begin seeing movement. A therapist skilled in facial paralysis will initiate exercises, biofeedback, and massage techniques to encourage innervation and strengthening. Scar management is initiated to ensure excellent scar healing. Therapy may need to be continued for several months in order to improve mobility of the muscle and for developing spontaneity of the smile.
Risks and Complications
What are the risks and complications of nerve transfers for facial paralysis?
Complications are rare with cross-face nerve graft. Standard risks associated with all surgeries apply. These can include bleeding (hematoma), infection, or adverse reactions to anesthesia. In adults, uncontrolled diabetes and smoking may affect healing and overall results. As a dynamic procedure, there is always a risk of minor asymmetry and excessive scarring underneath the skin, causing decreased movement of the lips. There is also a small risk failure to achieve full nerve regeneration, which can result in decreased motion or no function at all.
To minimize your risk, pay close attention to your surgeon’s instructions before and after surgery. The Facial Paralysis Center staff is available at all times to clarify any pre- or postoperative instructions that you were given. Please refer to the Pre- and Postoperative General Instructions for further details.
Why choose Dr Panossian
- He received his medical education at Tufts University School of Medicine.
- Graduated at the top of his class at UCLA, receiving Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude honors.
- Was accepted into an elite combined general surgery and plastic surgery residency at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
- Completed subspecialty training in craniofacial surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Harvard Medical School.
- Was mentored by Dr. Ron Zuker in the practice of facial paralysis reconstruction. This prestigious fellowship position was available to only one surgeon in the United States.
- Is affiliated with various charitable and educational organizations, including Operation Smile and Mending Kids.
- Is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the highly selective American Association of Plastic Surgeons, reserved for only a select group of individuals nationally who have demonstrated excellence in academic plastic surgery.
- Holds memberships in several other professional societies including the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery.
- He serves on the Board of Directors for Mending Kids and the Gondobay Manga Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of lives in Sierra Leone.
- Has been nominated by his peers annually since 2012 as a “Super Doctor.”
- Served as an expert medical consultant and appeared on The Doctors, Grey’s Anatomy, and Nip/Tuck.
- Has been featured as “Top Doctor” in US News and World Report, Pasadena Magazine, and Los Angeles Magazine.
Last modified by Dr. Andre Panossian