Facial Paralysis

Get your personal expression back with treatments that focus on re-animation

Facial paralysis is the total loss of movement of the muscles in the face, usually on one side. The muscles that control facial expression, including movement of the eyebrows, eyelids, lips and cheeks, are all affected.

The inability to move one or both sides of your face is not just damaging to your self-esteem, but also has devastating physical side effects. Facial paralysis, whether caused by injury, stroke or a tumor, can cause extreme difficulty with breathing, eating, speaking and can even severely affect vision.

Causes

The most common causes of facial paralysis are cancerous tumors in the brain, ear canal or in the salivary glands (parotid gland). The tumor itself may damage the facial nerves, which causes the facial paralysis, or a surgery to remove the tumor may result in the damage. In some cases, it is a combination of both.

Facial paralysis may also be caused by a condition called Bell's palsy, which damages the facial nerves. Rarely, diseases such as polio or Lyme disease can cause facial paralysis.

IU Health Center for Facial Paralysis offers advanced surgical techniques to improve reanimation of facial muscles after facial paralysis. Our specialists include facial plastic surgeons, ear surgeons, neurologists and neurosurgeons.

Your specific treatment plan will depend on the scope and timeline of the injury. Treatment options include:

Nerve Re-innervation

If you have suffered an injury recently (within the last 18 months), facial plastic surgeons can relocate the nerve which normally helps to move the tongue on one side of the mouth. By plugging that particular nerve into the damaged facial nerve, you can learn over time to move your tongue inside the mouth. Eventually, you will then be able to move the face on the paralyzed side, including smiling and closing the eyelid. Normal tongue function is retained during this procedure and tone is restored to the muscles of the mid-face. When the nerve from the tongue will not completely reach the facial nerve, a nerve from another part of the body can be used to bridge the gap.

Temporalis Tendon Transfer

If your injuries occurred more than 18 months ago, you may be a candidate for this minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Even if you have been suffering from facial paralysis for as long as 20 years, you may benefit from this technique. For young patients, an incision is made intra-orally to avoid a scar on the cheek. For older patients, an incision can be made to match any existing cheek crease in the face. Your surgeon will then dissect down to the jaw and re-route one of the muscles that typically inserts on the jaw, and reroute it to the cheek and upper lip. This allows you to control your smile when biting down, and move the upper lip back to the correct position, eliminating drooling issues during eating and opening the nasal passage on the affected side.

Gracilis Free Flap

This procedure is offered at only a select few Facial Paralysis Centers across the United States, including IU Health. It entails removing a small part of a muscle from the leg, with the nerve attached to it, and transferring it up to the cheek and face, where it is re-suspended. Because the nerve is also attached, you will have control of muscle movement.

Treatment

IU Health Center for Facial Paralysis offers advanced surgical techniques to improve reanimation of facial muscles after facial paralysis. Our specialists include facial plastic surgeons, ear surgeons, neurologists and neurosurgeons.

Your specific treatment plan will depend on the scope and timeline of the injury. Treatment options include:

Nerve Re-innervation

If you have suffered an injury recently (within the last 18 months), facial plastic surgeons can relocate the nerve which normally helps to move the tongue on one side of the mouth. By plugging that particular nerve into the damaged facial nerve, you can learn over time to move your tongue inside the mouth. Eventually, you will then be able to move the face on the paralyzed side, including smiling and closing the eyelid. Normal tongue function is retained during this procedure and tone is restored to the muscles of the mid-face. When the nerve from the tongue will not completely reach the facial nerve, a nerve from another part of the body can be used to bridge the gap.

Temporalis Tendon Transfer

If your injuries occurred more than 18 months ago, you may be a candidate for this minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Even if you have been suffering from facial paralysis for as long as 20 years, you may benefit from this technique. For young patients, an incision is made intra-orally to avoid a scar on the cheek. For older patients, an incision can be made to match any existing cheek crease in the face. Your surgeon will then dissect down to the jaw and re-route one of the muscles that typically inserts on the jaw, and reroute it to the cheek and upper lip. This allows you to control your smile when biting down, and move the upper lip back to the correct position, eliminating drooling issues during eating and opening the nasal passage on the affected side.

Gracilis Free Flap

This procedure is offered at only a select few Facial Paralysis Centers across the United States, including IU Health. It entails removing a small part of a muscle from the leg, with the nerve attached to it, and transferring it up to the cheek and face, where it is re-suspended. Because the nerve is also attached, you will have control of muscle movement.

The following websites provide information about facial paralysis and its treatments.

PubMed Health

PubMed Health provides information for consumers and clinicians on prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions.

Medline Plus

MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's Web site for patients and their families and friends produced by the National Library of Medicine with information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues.

Resources

PubMed Health

PubMed Health provides information for consumers and clinicians on prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions.

Medline Plus

MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's Web site for patients and their families and friends produced by the National Library of Medicine with information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues.

Patient Stories for Facial Paralysis