Hope for Patients With Irreversible Facial Paralysis

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Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS, facial paralysis expert, discusses new findings published in Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery

Although it was only a preliminary study and more research is needed, the artificial muscle that was implanted in this short-term animal model was safe and functional.

A number of prominent physicians, including Levi G. Ledgerwood, MD, and Travis T. Tollefson, MD, recently set out to determine the durability and biocompatibility of implanted artificial muscle in a gerbil module, and the degree of inflammation and fibrosis at the host tissue.

"The current management of permanent facial paralysis centers on nerve grafting and muscle transfer, but certain limitations of those procedures call for other options. That is why studies like this one are so important,” notes Beverly Hills facial paralysis expert Dr. Babak Azizzadeh.

The researchers used electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) devices engineered in medical-grade silicone, and implanted these subcutaneously in 13 gerbils. The implanted units were stimulated with 1 kV at 1 Hz, 24 h/d via a function generator. Electrical signal input/output was recorded up to 40 days after implantation. The animals were euthanized between 23 and 65 days after implantation, and the host tissue–implant interface was evaluated histologically.

"The results showed that animals tolerated implantation of the EPAM devices well, as there was no preoperative deaths,” explains Dr. Azizzadeh.

The muscle devices used in this study successfully created motion for a mean of 30.3 days, and with a range of 19 to 40 days. Histological examination of the explanted devices also revealed the development of a minimal fibrous capsule surrounding the implants, with no evidence of bacterial infection or inflammatory infiltrate.

"There was no evidence of device compromise, corrosion, or silicone breakdown noted, which is great news, and very exciting,” says Dr. Azizzadeh.

The researchers behind the study believe that EPAM devices will be a safe and viable option for restoration of facial motions in patients with irreversible facial paralysis.¨

"Although it was only a preliminary study and more research is needed, the artificial muscle that was implanted in this short-term animal model was safe and functional. If nothing else, it shows that there is hope for patients with irreversible facial paralysis,” concludes Dr. Azizzadeh.

Dr. Babak Azizzadeh is a renowned Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon, recognized as a Top Doctor by the US News & World Report. Since his extensive and prestigious training at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Azizzadeh has helped countless people with facial paralysis and Bell's palsy. Dr. Azizzadeh is the director of the Facial Paralysis Institute and founder of the non-profit Facial Paralysis & Bell's Palsy Foundation. He is the principle investigator of facial nerve regeneration project at Cedars-Sinai, and the author of five bestselling books, including the definitive facial paralysis textbook entitled “Slattery Facial Nerve.”

Dr. Azizzadeh is trained in Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, as well as Head & Neck Surgery, giving him a distinctive insight into facial nerve function and facial aesthetics. He has been recognized for his work on several occasions, and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show for his expertise in facial nerve reconstruction. Dr. Azizzadeh is also the director of the USC Facial Plastic Fellowship Program as well as the Cedars-Sinai Multispecialty Plastic Surgery Symposium.

For more information, please visit http://www.facialparalysisinstitute.com or call (310)657-2203.

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