Facial paralysis is a complex issue and the specific treatment required depends greatly on the cause of the paralysis. For most patients with Bell’s palsy, the facial paralysis is temporary, but sometimes the facial nerve is permanently damaged and requires surgical intervention. Other facial paralysis patients may also benefit from surgical treatment. Facial Nerve Decompression is a procedure that may help those living with permanent facial paralysis regain facial function and a more symmetrical appearance.
Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS is the Director of the Facial Paralysis Institute and a world-renowned facial paralysis expert. He is highly regarded for his expertise in the field and has even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Dr. Oz Show, and The Doctors for his groundbreaking work in the treatment of facial paralysis. At the Facial Paralysis Institute in Los Angeles, Dr. Azizzadeh and his team strive to bring their facial paralysis patients the highest quality care and the most innovative treatments available.
What Is Facial Nerve Paralysis?
The facial nerve is used to control facial movement on one side of the face. If the nerve is damaged or stops working properly, it can become exceedingly difficult to smile, frown, and make other facial expressions.
Facial nerve paralysis requires immediate diagnosis and treatment. Failure to properly identify this issue may lead to permanent facial paralysis. By meeting with Dr. Azizzadeh, a patient can explore treatment options to correct their facial paralysis symptoms.
Facial Nerve Paralysis Symptoms
Common facial nerve paralysis symptoms include:
- Difficulty eating or drinking
- Sensitivity to sound on the paralyzed side of the face
- Difficulty opening and closing the eye on the paralyzed side of the face
- Ear pain (in or behind the ear)
Facial nerve paralysis symptoms that persist for many weeks or months may require surgical intervention. During a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, a patient can determine if surgery or other treatment options can be used to address these issues.
What Is Facial Nerve Decompression Treatment?
Facial nerve decompression is a procedure that may help those living with permanent facial paralysis regain facial function and a more symmetrical appearance. It is performed when the facial nerve is being compressed in the bony canal of the temporal bone.
In some cases, the facial nerve is so inflamed that it becomes pressed, or cramped, within the confined space of the bony canal. When facial nerve decompression is performed by an experienced facial paralysis surgeon, releasing the pressure on the nerve can lead to a gradual improvement in facial paralysis symptoms.
Causes of Facial Nerve Compression
Facial nerve compression can occur for various reasons, including infection, inflammation, or other damage to the nerve itself. In addition, head or neck tumor, or stroke may contribute to facial paralysis and associated compression of the facial nerve.
Dr. Azizzadeh performs an in-depth evaluation of a patient’s facial paralysis symptoms. If Dr. Azizzadeh believes a patient is dealing with a compressed facial nerve, he determines if microscopic decompression of the facial nerve or other treatment options can be used to correct this issue.
Facial Nerve Decompression Technique
Facial nerve decompression requires an advanced surgical technique. Thus, the procedure should only be performed by an expert surgeon who understands how to minimize patient risk.
Generally, facial nerve decompression treatment is performed through a middle fossa craniotomy and/or through the mastoid bone behind the ear. Pieces of the bone are removed so that the inflamed facial nerve can expand, and the pressure that may be causing some of the facial paralysis symptoms is relieved. Depending on the individual case, the surgeon may perform the procedure through the middle cranial fossa method or a mastoidectomy, or a combination of the two.
Dr. Azizzadeh outlines all aspects of facial nerve surgery before treatment. He explains his facial nerve decompression technique in detail, as well as responds to his patient’s concerns and questions. In doing so, Dr. Azizzadeh ensures his patient knows exactly what to expect during a facial nerve decompression treatment.
Facial Nerve Decompression Complications
Facial nerve surgery risks include:
- Hearing loss
- Ear numbness
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
Dr. Azizzadeh will not perform facial nerve surgery if he believes the risks of treatment outweigh the potential benefits. In this scenario, Dr. Azizzadeh offers facial nerve decompression alternatives.
Is Facial Nerve Decompression Effective?
Facial nerve decompression is sometimes used to treat long-standing Bell’s palsy and other types of facial paralysis. It alleviates pressure on the facial nerve, and by doing so, often leads to progressive facial paralysis improvement and healing.
Facial nerve decompression patients often achieve the optimal results if they undergo treatment within 30 days of the onset of facial paralysis symptoms, according to Dr. Azizzadeh. At this point, Dr. Azizzadeh can use facial nerve decompression to eliminate facial nerve irritation before it becomes a permanent issue.
Who is a Candidate for Facial Nerve Decompression?
Facial nerve decompression is typically indicated for patients with permanent facial palsy in which the facial nerve is intact, but is inflamed and compressed within the bones of the face. This can be present in patients with facial paralysis as a result of traumatic injury, infection, or Bell’s palsy. Facial nerve decompression is generally indicated after other less invasive treatments for the symptoms of facial palsy have been attempted.
An optimal result after facial nerve decompression surgery is seen about one year after surgery. Blood work, imaging (MRI and/or CT scans), and other tests such as EMG and ENoG are often performed to determine if facial nerve decompression is a good treatment option. Schedule a consultation with the Los Angeles facial paralysis expert Dr. Babak Azizzadeh to see if you are a candidate for facial nerve decompression.
If a patient does not qualify for facial nerve decompression, other facial paralysis treatments are available. In fact, Dr. Azizzadeh is happy to teach individuals about facial nerve decompression alternatives such as cross-facial nerve graft and masseteric facial nerve transfer procedures.
A cross-facial nerve graft requires the use of a patient’s undamaged facial nerve to correct facial paralysis on the opposite side of his or her face. During a cross-facial nerve graft, Dr. Azizzadeh harvests a dispensable sensory nerve from a patient’s leg, called the sural nerve. He next uses a long interposition graft to link the facial nerves on both sides of a patient’s face. Finally, Dr. Azizzadeh produces a cross-face graft that guides the regenerating nerve fibers across a patient’s face.
Comparatively, a masseteric facial nerve transfer helps improve facial reanimation, particularly among individuals who have been dealing with facial paralysis for less than three years. During a masseteric facial nerve transfer, Dr. Azizzadeh makes an incision near the front of the ear. Next, he identifies the facial nerve and masseteric nerve and sews them together. This ensures the masseteric nerve provides neural input into the paralyzed facial nerve to help a patient restore his or her facial muscle function and smile.
What to Expect After a Facial Nerve Decompression Procedure
Facial nerve decompression surgery recovery time can be lengthy, and recovery after surgery may be a long-term process. Dr. Azizzadeh establishes realistic expectations for facial nerve decompression surgery from the get-go. Since it may take several months or years before a patient achieves the full results of facial nerve surgery, Dr. Azizzadeh ensures a patient can plan accordingly. With his extensive approach to facial nerve decompression, Dr. Azizzdeh puts his patient in a position to fully recover from treatment.
Approximately 10 days after a facial nerve decompression surgery, a patient’s sutures are removed. Eye protection is required in the initial days of surgery. Meanwhile, facial nerve decompression patients often can resume their normal activities within about two weeks following surgery. They require periodic follow-up visits to ensure their recovery stays on track, too.
To ensure treatment recovery is successful, Dr. Azizzadeh offers tips and recommendations throughout this period. He also remains available to his patients and can respond to any post-surgery concerns or questions
Choose an Expert Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon for Facial Nerve Decompression
Facial nerve decompression is a complex procedure, and it must be performed by an expert facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Fortunately, Dr. Azizzadeh is a Harvard-trained facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who administers safe, effective facial nerve decompression treatments.
Dr. Azizzadeh is a globally recognized facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who understands all aspects of the facial nerve. He understands the intricacies of the facial nerve and works with patients to help them correct their facial paralysis symptoms. First, Dr. Azizzadeh helps a patient determine if facial nerve decompression is the right treatment to correct his or her facial paralysis symptoms. If Dr. Azizzadeh determines facial nerve decompression is the ideal treatment option, he next guides a patient through the surgery process. Dr. Azizzadeh also requests follow-up appointments to help a patient achieve his or her desired facial nerve decompression surgery results.
Contact Dr. Azizzadeh for a Facial Nerve Surgery Consultation
If you or someone you love is living with permanent facial paralysis, facial nerve decompression surgery may be able to restore facial function. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact our office online or call us at (310) 657-2203.
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