Intraoperative Electrical Nerve Stimulation - a Potential Treatment for Individuals Affected with Bell's Palsy

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Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS, and Director of the Facial Paralysis Institute in Beverly Hills discusses the new technique for individuals stricken with Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis.

Dr Babak Azizzadeh MD

Even though most cases of Bell’s palsy will resolve on their own in a few months, a subsegment of population will require facial nerve decompression due to the significance of the facial nerve paralysis.

For individuals dealing with the effects of Bell’s palsy, a common disorder causing temporary facial paralysis to one side of the face, not knowing when facial function will return can cause extreme distress in a patient’s life. Most patients who are treated with steroids and antiviral medications return to almost normal function. However, a small segment of patients with Bell's Palsy who have severe degeneration of their facial nerve may have poor outcome. These patients have been traditionally treated with standard facial nerve decompression - where the bone surrounding the nerve behind the ear is opened allowing the nerve to have less pressure exerted on it. A recent article published May 29, 2013 to has brought forth a modification of the facial nerve decompression by using intraoperative electrical nerve stimulation aimed to jump-start the paralyzed nerve with an electric current.

“Even though most cases of Bell’s palsy will resolve on their own in a few months, a subsegment of population will require facial nerve decompression due to the significance of the facial nerve paralysis. The recent publication has put forth that it may be beneficial to use electrical nerve stimulation intraoperatively while performing decompression surgery,” said Dr. Azizzadeh, facial paralysis surgeon in Beverly Hills. "Neuro-otologists at the Facial Paralysis Institute would oversee this procedure."

Electrical nerve stimulation theoretically works by jump-starting the paralyzed facial nerve using an electrical current, which may potentially result in a quicker resolution of the disorder. “Even though this new treatment for Bell's palsy has helped a few individuals so far, it's important that further studies be completed so we can understand the treatment to a tee. I'm very intigued that this could lead to excellent developments,” said Dr. Azizzadeh.

Though not every individual patient will be a candidate to undergo electrical nerve stimulation to overcome recurrent or severe Bell's palsy, there are a multitude of other revolutionary surgical treatment options for people living with the disorder. At the Facial Paralysis Institute in Beverly Hills, Dr. Azizzadeh says that he’s seen excellent results with another popular procedure known as the masseter to facial nerve transfer.

“If a person has not had resolution of their facial paralysis, they may be a candidate for a number of other procedures that can bring them fantastic results. At my practice, I’ve treated many patients with a procedure called a masseteric to facial nerve transfer, in which I can harvest the masseter nerve and surgically suture it to the paralyzed facial nerve. This allows for neural input to flow into the facial nerve, improving facial reanimation with time,” said world-renowned facial paralysis expert Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS.

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. Dr. Azizzadeh also has extensive training in microsurgical facial reconstruction, which is often required for the treatment of people who are born with facial paralysis. He is also the director of the USC Facial Plastic Fellowship Program, and the director of the world renowned Cedars-Sinai Advances in Multispecialty Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery Symposium.

For more information about the various types of facial paralysis surgery offered at the Facial Paralysis Institute in Beverly Hills, please contact Dr. Azizzadeh today by calling (310) 657-2203 or visit:

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